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Iowa Democrat insults farmers, vows to help rich lawyers fight tort reform

Iowa Democrat insults farmers, vows to help rich lawyers fight tort reform

You learn the most amazing things by bringing hidden cameras into closed-door political speeches, don’t you?  Both sides can play the game, which makes it somewhat odd that either side is still making campaign-destroying gaffes, especially after all the grief Mitt Romney took for his “47 percent” speech in 2012.

Bruce Braley, Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, is the latest to burn his campaign to the ground by doing a bit of aggressive pandering to a big-money special interest while a camera was running.  From the Des Moines Register:

“If you help me win this race,” Braley says in the video, posted online by a donor after the Jan. 23 fundraiser in Corpus Christi, Texas and released today by the conservative America Rising PAC, “you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone’s who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Braley says. “Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Longtime Iowa politics expert David Yepsen watched the video then told The Des Moines Register: “This is bad for Braley and it will hurt him. Chuck Grassley is a political icon.”

One of the ways Senator Grassley got to be an icon is by serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee for, oh, three decades or so, presumably after arriving in a turnip truck.  Tourists can still follow the trail of hayseeds leading from the base of Capitol Hill to the Judiciary Committee chambers.  If you catch Senator Grassley on a good day, he might even let you pose for a photo holding his pitchfork.

Braley sure knows his constituency!  Iowa doesn’t have a lot of farmers; most of the state is occupied by rich trial lawyers eager to protect their millions by electing politicians who vow to fight tort reform.  It’s hard to understand why everyone’s getting so bent out of shape over this video:

Grassley’s campaign didn’t wait for the cows to come home before issuing a response:

In response to the video, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Pellett Levine said: “By the logic expressed on this recording, a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care.

“Sen. Grassley has served on the Judiciary Committee since he was first elected to the Senate, and he’s got a strong record on the committee. Grassley-authored amendments to the False Claims Act have recovered nearly $40 billion for taxpayers that would otherwise be lost to fraud. He’s the co-author of laws to curb class-action lawsuit abuse and to reform the bankruptcy code. Sen. Grassley is unmatched in his legislative and oversight work to protect whistleblowers, both in and out of government, who speak up about wrong-doing for the public good. He coauthored the Whistleblower Protection Act and numerous updates to laws protecting whistleblowers, including national security and on Wall Street. Sen. Grassley’s work on the Judiciary Committee exposed the illegal gun-trafficking operation known as Operation Fast and Furious. It was Sen. Grassley’s persistence that pressured the current administration to provide Congress with the legal rationale for using drones on American citizens.

“Alongside that,” Pellett Levine continued, “Sen. Grassley’s one of only two working family farmers in the United States Senate, where he brings Iowa common sense to work for ag, anti-trust, transportation, environmental, energy, trade, health care, communications, national security, and tax policy that works for all of America.”

Braley, who isn’t actually running against Grassley – the crowded Republican primary to select his opponent for retiring Senator Tom Harkin’s seat is still under way - found it necessary to issue an apology, followed by a plea for farmers to ignore all the lawyers stuffing money into his pockets, and think of him as the scarecrow in every cornfield:

In a statement later this afternoon, Braley said: “I apologize to Senator Grassley and anyone I may have offended. I respect Senator Grassley and enjoy our working relationship even though we disagree on some issues.

Braley continued: “But there is a clear choice in this race between Mark Jacobs and my other opponents who support policies that are bad for Iowa farmers, and the work I’ve done hand in hand with Iowa farmers to grow Iowa’s farm economy and create good paying Iowa farm jobs. My parents both grew up on Iowa farms during the Great Depression. It deeply influenced who they are and who I am, and gave me a profound appreciation for what farmers do for the world. One of my grandfathers was a charter member of the Iowa Farm Bureau. I grew up in rural Iowa, doing farm jobs and working a grain elevator. I have tremendous respect for Iowa farmers and appreciate how important they are to our state, and I’m grateful to have the support of hundreds of farmers across Iowa.”

“Bruce Braley’s ignorant remarks are yet another reminder that he only aims to serve one group: trial lawyers nationwide, not Iowans,” said businessman Mark Jacobs, the Republican candidate Braley named.  “To insinuate that someone like Chuck Grassley, who has served his state so honorably, is not fit to be a committee chair because his just ‘a farmer from Iowa’ is offensive.”

Braley has been running comfortably ahead after an unopposed primary, while the Republicans slug it out.  His atomic gaffe gives the half-dozen GOP hopefuls a chance to distinguish themselves by responding most effectively.  That’s going to keep Braley’s remarks front and center in Iowa for some time to come.

Update: For whatever reason, Braley singled out only one of his prospective Republican opponents, Mark Jacobs, for a cheap shot in his “apology” to Iowa farmers.  Another of the Republican candidates, Joni Ernst, made creative use of her own farm experience in a political ad.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with this story, but since it came up in the comments, here you go:

For those working to handicap the Iowa primary, Ernst recently picked up the endorsement of Sarah Palin, who chimed in with a few pork-cutting quips on her Facebook page, but alas did not repeat the “Let’s make ‘em squeal!” campaign slogan.  If only Ned Beatty could be recruited to cut an ad for Joni Ernst…

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