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Judge Criticizes Branstad; His Camp Fires Back

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa voters should not let Gov. Terry Branstad dismiss allegations of cronyism, hush-money payments, intimidation and retribution as partisan attacks by opposition Democrats, former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge said Tuesday.

A series of problems in Branstad’s fifth term, Judge said, ranging from a speeding incident last summer to confidential settlement agreements with laid-off state workers, questionable hiring and employment practices and pressuring of administrative law judges to make pro-business rulings in unemployment benefit cases should give voters pause as the campaign season gears up.

Judge, an Albia Democrat who served as a state senator, state agriculture secretary and finally lieutenant governor from 2007-11, said Branstad has created a “crony-friendly” culture that enables his aides to use their governmental power to “extract political retribution while he pretends to have no clue.”

“I’ve known Terry Branstad for a long time,” Judge told a news conference on the west steps of the state Capitol building, “and I do not believe that he has no clue.”

Judge said it is up to the Government Oversight Committee as the Legislature’s legal arm to “get to the bottom” of allegations brought to light in recent months by current and former state employees, media reports and other sources and she hoped legislative Republicans would participate in future hearings focused on bringing more transparency and accountability to state government.

“We cannot brush this under the rug as partisan politics. This is too important,” said Judge, who planned similar events in Ottumwa later Tuesday and in Davenport and Iowa City on Wednesday to draw attention to what she called Branstad’s “failures as governor and the abuse of power” within his administration.

Judge said Iowa has had a history of clean politics and clean government that is a source of pride for its citizens. There always have been political differences over various issues, she noted, and they oftentimes lead to good, balanced policy.

“But political cronyism, political retribution — those issues have no place in Iowa and I believe that we need to get to the bottom of it and we need to stop it. If Terry Branstad really doesn’t know what’s going on in his administration, he’d better find out or we’d better get another governor,” Judge said.

“Acting above the law, abusing power to benefit your friends and punish your enemies may work in New Jersey, but it does not work in Iowa and Iowans are not going to stand for it,” the former lieutenant governor added. “Iowans are ready to move on and restore the leadership that they rightly expect in our government.

Tommy Schultz, communications director for the Branstad-Reynolds campaign, said confidential settlement agreements have gone on in previous administration’s — including Judge’s time in office as former Gov. Chet Culver’s lieutenant — but Branstad was the one who permanently ended “this troubling practice once and for all” with Executive Order 85 earlier this year.

“If anyone is an expert on failed governorships and abuses of power, it’s Patty Judge and Chet Culver,” Schultz said in a statement. “Under Patty’s failed administration, there were secret settlements and hundreds of millions in tax credit theft that went on right under her nose, and she self-admittedly had no idea it was going on.

“Patty can whitewash the past all she wants, but the facts remain the same: Terry Branstad was elected to clean up the catastrophic failed legacy of the Culver-Judge years and ended the settlement practice as soon as he was made aware of it,” he added.

Schultz said Judge’s statements represent the “typical, tired, stale, sophomoric politics of the failed Culver-Judge administration” that Iowans rejected in the 2010 election.

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