The Bob Vander Plaats Endorsement Brouhaha



When Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley announced their personal endorsement of Rick Santorum I didn’t anticipate the controversy to follow.  I didn’t think much of the board declining an endorsement, but allowing Vander Plaats and Hurley to go ahead an endorse.  I can understand diverging opinions, as it is one reason we at Caffeinated Thoughts didn’t do a blanket endorsement as well.  I endorsed Santorum as did Brian Myers, but we have other opinions among our contributors, as well as, some who are simply undecided.

Their clarifying statement actually raises some questions for me.

The FAMiLY LEADER board was unanimous in their personal support for Rick Santorum but opted not to endorse as an organization out of respect for many constituents that support candidates other than Rick Santorum.  The board wanted to avoid offending any constituents who may be bothered by the possibility that their support to The FAMiLY LEADER may be used to promote a candidate the constituents themselves were not backing.  However, the board is thankful they can allow a voice of leadership by permitting Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley to personally endorse Senator Santorum.

They wanted to be a “standard bearer rather than be a “kingmaker.”  Ok, it sure didn’t seem that way based on the presidential lecture series, “the marriage vow,” private meetings, and then The Thanksgiving Forum.  Certainly they could have done all of this without having to endorse as a help to their constituents, but they dangled the endorsement out there.

Then they address the allegation about asking for money – they flatly deny that, and deny that Vander Plaats asked Congresswoman Bachmann to drop out as completely false.  Ok, I’ll buy that they didn’t do that especially since the money charge is being made by our friends, “anonymous sources.”  I don’t trust “anonymous sources.”  But to say what was done with Congresswoman Bachmann was completely false?  Well….

“It would make it a lot easier if a couple of them would team up,” Vander Plaats said on CNN. “I talked to a few candidates and I said, ‘I’m not saying what you should do, I’m not telling you to drop out or anything of that nature, but if you like another candidate, maybe you and the other candidate should get together and say, ‘Hey, can we make something work where it’s a team deal.’ “

What were the campaigns supposed to think, and what in the world made him think he had that type of influence?

Then with the topic of money… ABC News reports:

But even Santorum acknowledged in an interview with CNN that money was among the topics he and Vander Plaats discussed last weekend ahead of Tuesday’s endorsement press conference.

“What he talked about was he needed money to promote the endorsement and that that would be important to do that,” Santorum told CNN. “There was never a direct ask for me to go out and raise money for it.”…

…In an interview with the Des Moines Register this week, Vander Plaats said that it was his “ethical responsibility” to essentially put some money where his mouth is.

“You can’t say, ‘We endorsed you. Now see you later,’” Vander Plaats told the Iowa newspaper. “That’s not going to do a lot in the long run.”

Ok, forget the anonymous sources, now we have a Presidential candidate saying money was discussed to promote the endorsement.  Vander Plaats also said this that it was his “ethical responsibility.”  Forget whisper campaign controversy.  If Vander Plaats wanted to put his money where his mouth is then shouldn’t it be his money?  I don’t believe that money was an expectation for an endorsement, but this has to be a first for me hearing that an endorser wanted to spend money to promote his endorsement.  Is this endorsement about Santorum or him?  I mean one can make their endorsement, send out a press release even (or in my case write a blog post), but then after that shouldn’t it be left to the candidate to take if further if they want?

It would seem that what would have been a positive gain for Santorum has now been tainted, and The FAMiLY Leader’s credibility is being questioned.  One of the primary goals with an endorsement is that it doesn’t bring harm to your candidate or have people calling for an investigation.

This is simply a mess, and it is one that could have been easily avoided. Never mix the discussion of money (regardless of the why) with an endorsement, period.  Bob should know that we who profess Christ should avoid the very appearance of impropriety.  There may have been no wrong done, but it sure looks bad.

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  • SJ

    You made some very important points.

    The board wanted to avoid offending any constituents who may be bothered
    by the possibility that their support to The FAMiLY LEADER may be used
    to promote a candidate the constituents themselves were not backing.

    I thought about this some more, and you know what I believe the “translation” of that statement is? 

    Donors threatened to stop giving to us if we endorsed someone other than who they wanted, so we decided to renege on our promised endorsement.

    When people act strangely and seem to betray their principles, one of the first things to look at is money.  I could be wrong here, of course.  But I heard they promised an endorsement for 11 months, so what else explains their 180?

    As for Bachmann, I read that apparently one of her own PR people admitted that BVP didn’t actually ask her point-blank to drop out.

    In your article, you mentioned “endorsee,” but it seems you were referring to BVP with that.  Did you mean “endorser” there? 

    That is weird the way BVP brought money into the conversation.  Should you even be leading a pro-family organization if you really don’t know how to handle matters like that?  You want to come across as a strong leader, not a knucklehead.  Oh, well, at least TFL got the theme song right that they’ll be playing at all of Santorum’s campaign appearances:

    “Tainted Love”  ;)

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      Yes I did mean endorser, good catch, fixed.

  • Jay

    Vander Plaats should have endorsed Gingrich.  Gingrich is at least slightly more liquid than Santorum, and Gingrich knows how to keep quiet when money passes under the table.

  • http://www.lisagraas.com Lisa Graas

    There is a huge flaw in the suspicion regarding money. If it had something to do with money, he would have picked someone other than Rick Santorum, because Rick Santorum has raised the least amount of money. I think Bob Vander Plaats has the right to express his own personal opinion about anything he wants to, and he’s been very clear in stating his opinion does not represent the organization as a whole. The members and the board together make up the organization. That is why even if all the board members prefer one candidate, there is no endorsement by the organization. At Kentucky Right to Life, I know that the board doesn’t vote on endorsements. All PAC members do, and anyone can be a PAC member. Also, it’s my understanding that he said the same thing to all the socially conservative candidates, that they should look at the others and see if they might be willing to get behind one. This occurred long before he was clear about who he would prefer as a candidate. He seems to have been pretty clear that he didn’t want to give any indication as to who he supported before he made his official announcement. What I’m saying here is that while I respect where you’re coming from, I think you’re not looking at the big picture here and seeing it the same way I am. God bless you, Shane. Merry Christmas.

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      Hey Lisa, I totally understand an organization not endorsing, but if you have been in Iowa you would have seen that they have pretty much said that they would.  When they were the Iowa Family Policy Center they had a record of endorsing, backing first Brownback and then Huckabee in 2008, and then Bob Vander Plaats for Governor in 2010.

      I’m not saying that he didn’t say similar things to all socially conservative candidates, I just question the hubris behind it.  Also there was the talk of money (not a request of a candidate to fund) to promote the endorsement.

      The water was muddied and it didn’t need to be. I hope you had a Merry Christmas as well!

  • Argon

    Hmm… Political connections, aspirations to the governorship or perhaps federal office, the perpetual drive for more money and delivering religious swing votes. Nope, that never goes badly.

    Some people never learn.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LB3LDHWZXK7GXIW6DYVOYSVPHE SJ

    Here’s some interesting stuff from an ABC News blog called “Iowa Conservative Leader Mired in Controversy After Rick Santorum Endorsement”:

    Sources familiar with talks between the conservative heavyweight and representatives from several of the Republican presidential campaigns went a step further, describing Vander Plaats’ tactics as corrupt.

    “Clearly the endorsement was for sale — without a doubt,” one source said….

    Though Santorum did not specify the dollar amount he and Vander Plaats discussed, multiple sources said he was soliciting as much as $1 million from Santorum and other candidates….

    ABC News has learned that Vander Plaats tried to solicit money for his endorsement during the last presidential cycle too. A former staffer for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential bid who is currently unaffiliated with a campaign said Vander Plaats came to them seeking money for his backing if he supported the former Massachusetts governor.

    “He wanted to be paid,” the former staffer said. “He was clearly looking for a paycheck. There was a conversation about him getting a title, but being a paid consultant was much more important.”

    The aide said they offered him a title, but never seriously considered paying Vander Plaats. He ended up endorsing Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee over Romney.
     
    If all this is true (and we don’t know it for a fact yet), then who knows what BVP might have said to Bachmann.