Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican broke the news about Bob Vander Plaats being hired by Iowa Family Policy Center to be their CEO. Even though IFPC’s President, Chuck Hurley, is being coy with the news, I’ve heard from my “sources” that this is indeed the case. Robinson has some details that I can’t confirm like the creation of a parent organization, The Family Group (which would be over IFPC and Marriage Matters) and Vander Plaats’ salary of $120,000. I was told by an IFPC staffer when I tried texting Bryan English, their communications director, that they are making structural changes and that they would be announced at their fundraiser on November 21 with Mike Huckabee.
I was told by that same staffer that Bryan English did resign and is currently doing consulting work. Also Mike Hartwig who was their Vice President who directed Marriage Matters is gone (he announced that via Facebook). Tom Stein, their operations director is also gone. What isn’t know are the reasons why they are no longer on staff. English resigned, but were Hartwig and Stein fired and why?
So some definite changes are afoot at Iowa Family Policy Center. When Iowa Family Policy Center endorsed Vander Plaats in during the Republican gubernatorial primary I expressed my concern. Mike Hartwig later provided a rebuttal and defended their decision to endorse. I know the endorsement did impact their base of support negatively, especially among Rod Roberts supporters.
I was also concerned, not only about the endorsement, but more importantly the tone and rhetoric that was coming from Iowa Family Policy Center ACTION. I have talked about this with several IFPC staff whom I know, and I shared my concern as a friend. I’ve also been happy to go to bat for them when I think they have been unfairly targeted.
So I’m not sure what to think about this news. Bob Vander Plaats is reportedly being tasked with fundraising. He did a decent job with his last gubernatorial campaign, but raising funds for a non-profit is a completely different animal than raising funds for a campaign. I’ve heard mixed reviews about his tenure at the last non-profit he served in Sioux City, so we shall see. Vander Plaats did do an effective job leading Iowa for Freedom in campaigning for the ouster of the three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention and so he would be joining IFPC on a high note which I think would be good for the organization.
I’m also concerned about what this may mean for the tone of the organization. I’m not one that believes that they need to be a cheerleader for the Iowa Republican Party, but alienating people throughout the party as they did in this last election I don’t think helps them move the ball on their issues either. Will the addition of Vander Plaats exasperate ill will that was sown during the election? It seemed during the election the advocacy of marriage (among other issues) was overshadowed by the advocacy of a particular candidate. Will this move help place the focus on issues once again or will Vander Plaats become a lightning rod?
I’m also concerned about the staff turnover, were they let go due to financial burden? Does it make sense then to bring on a CEO who makes $120,000 or were they let go because of philosophical reasons. Perhaps they just resigned because of other opportunities, but with three people leaving in such a short period of time that is hard to believe. I personally would be disappointed if Mike Hartwig, whom I consider a friend, was let go to make room for Vander Plaats. I think Iowa Family Policy Center needs to be upfront with their supporters about the staff turnover. Perhaps that will also be discussed on the 21st.
Then the timing of the announcement is suspect to my inner cynic. Are they waiting until the fundraiser to make these announcements because they think do so beforehand would hurt the outcome of the event? On the other hand they may want to give the update to their supporters first and that is why they are waiting.
Also is this a way for Vander Plaats to position himself for a 4th run at Terrace Hill?
Anyway, in my mind, the verdict is still out on whether this will be a net positive or net negative for Iowa Family Policy Center. Time will tell. Right now I have a ton of unanswered questions.