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During her weekly press conference on Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was asked by Clark Kaufmann with the Iowa Capital Dispatch if she had cleared donating a dinner for eight with herself and her husband Kevin at Terrace Hill for Des Moines Christian School’s charity auction with legal counsel. 

Kaufmann had first reported in early April about the charity auction that ended up raising over $30,000 for the accredited, non-public Christian school located in Urbandale, later reported by liberal blog Bleeding Heartland.

Reynolds said no state money was involved. 

“Right. But did you consult with regard to the legality of auctioning off a dinner at Terrace Hill?” Kaufmann pressed.

“Yeah, we’ve been taught this is something that’s been done by governors for years. And it’s a way for us to support organizations. We do it for the Heart Association, we do it for leukemia, we do it for multiple different groups,” Reynolds answered.

Kaufmann followed up, “a legal opinion that said this was appropriate?”

Reynolds replied, “we have the authority to do that.”

Kaufmann asked, “to who though?” 

She thanked the reporters and ended the press conference. 

Watch:

Reynolds was right that this is something they have done for other charities in the past, at least before COVID-19 hit. 

Pat Garrett, the governor’s spokesperson, provided Caffeinated Thoughts a list of charities they have donated time for a good cause.

They include:

  • 2018 Legacy Gala – Girls & Boys Club
  • All-Star Evening Robert D. Ray & Billie Ray Center (twice)
  • Benefit for Canyon “Moose” Hopkins
  • Camping the Night Away (twice)
  • Celebrity Chef Gala
  • Heart Ball
  • Hy-Vee Charity Auction (twice)
  • Inner Visions Healthcare Gala (twice)
  • James Arthur Foundation Books & Bricks
  • Kickin’ It Giving Gala St. Vincent de Paul
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (twice)
  • Make -A Wish Gala
  • Michael Myers Memorial Golf Classic
  • Science Center of Iowa 
  • Wildwood Hills Ranch – Wild About The Child Shindig
  • Young Women’s Resource Gala (twice)
  • Count the Kicks
  • DM Christian School True-Blue Gala
  • Jeff and Deb Hansen Foundation (AP wrote about this.)
  • Saint Francis Harvest Ball

This was a private dinner paid for, not the state, so I assume either the Reynolds directly or perhaps out of her campaign fund.

Why would Kaufmann question the legality of this? How is this even remotely illegal? How is this even unethical?

This isn’t pay-to-play because she isn’t getting paid. Kaufmann in April reported that representatives of former Democratic Governors Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver never did this. He reported former Governor Terry Branstad did. 

That’s their choice, and that’s too bad. In what world is helping a nonprofit organization a bad thing? Or is it because Des Moines Christian School is a Christian school. Kaufmann made a point to emphasize the organization Reynolds helped was a faith-based entity. 

“Des Moines Christian School says its mission is to nurture graduates who are ‘servant-hearted leaders’ and ‘passionate apprentices of Christ.’ Donors to the gala are told their contributions represent an investment in the school’s effort to ‘impact the world for Christ!’ The school has been awarded public-charity tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service due to its mission of providing ‘Christ-centered education’ for youth,” he wrote. 

“In the past, Reynolds and her immediate predecessor, fellow Republican Terry Branstad, have auctioned off meals or some of their time to benefit other nonprofit organizations or charities. In at least two cases, the auctions have included access to Terrace Hill or a special tour of the Iowa Capitol building, both of which are maintained at taxpayer expense,” Kaufmann added.

So what? First, Governor Reynolds is a Christian, so is it really a shock that she wants to help a faith-based organization? 

Secondly, Governor Reynolds did not shed her First Amendment rights when she entered office. 

Third, the State Capitol Building is open to the public, so how exactly was extra taxpayer money spent there? The state also maintains Terrace Hill, but it is also her home while she is in office. I don’t recall any journalists getting their nose bent out of shape when Governor Terry Branstad invited the media to Terrace Hill the weekend of the Iowa Straw Poll or for a Christmas Party (I attended both). Is that ok? We weren’t there doing a story. It was a party. 

Fourth, not every single minute of her life is owned by the state. Governors get downtime. They can take vacations and spend time with their families. They can also donate their time. Both Governor Reynolds and former Governor Branstad before her were (and are) extremely accessible. Iowans should be able to contact her with concerns. Reynolds should make herself publicly available, and she does, but we are not entitled to private dinners in her home or private tours led by her. 

If she did this to raise funds for her campaign, that would be a story; this is just petty.

Frankly, I wish I had thought of approaching the Governor’s office when I worked for Serve Our Youth Network for this kind of donation for the silent auctions we held during our banquets, it never crossed my mind. I’m kicking myself.  

So, if you think the appearances look bad, that is a you problem. Because as far as I’m concerned, she should be applauded for finding creative ways to use her time to benefit others outside the scope of her duties as governor. Well done, Governor Reynolds, keep it up!

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