Politics Blog

Followup: Outside money backfires in small-town Iowa

On Election Day, I posted about the races in Coralville, Iowa, pop. 18,907, which had the attention of the New York Times (and the vice president of the United States, who called on election night to congratulate the mayor) because Americans for Prosperity waged a campaign opposing the incumbents.

AfP, founded by the Koch brothers (notorious in liberal circles for trying to buy the presidential race for Mitt Romney and for winning Republican majorities at the state level), targeted the incumbents in this nondescript town because, the political action committee said, they were responsible for a mounting city debt.

In this case, money didn't buy the elections. All the incumbents won in Coralville, and the consensus among observers there was that the AfP money actually backfired and helped their cause.

A good object lesson, perhaps, in how being well funded is not always a good thing in elections. 

A couple notes about The New York Times' reporting on these elections: No dollar amount is given for AfP's investment in these campaigns. Perhaps Iowa's public disclosure laws aren't as public-friendly as ours. Secondly, in defeat, an AfP spokesperson said the group did accomplish some things -- generating discussion about the debt problem and spurring a record turnout of almost 25 percent of registered voters.

Almost 25 percent?! A record?? Here, a turnout of less than 53 percent in the 2013 general election would have been a disappointment, county Republican Chairman Charlie Crabtree said, especially given the $1 million-plus spent on the elections. (Turnout will end up north of 54 percent.)