Conflict Of Interest: Iowa Democrats Hammer Joni Ernst Over Contracts Awarded To Her Father

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Republican Senate Candidate Joni Ernst could be in some hot water over county public contracts awarded to her father’s company when she served as the county’s auditor. Ernst, who is running against Democrat Bruce Braley for Iowa’s open US Senate seat, served as the Montgomery County auditor from 2004 to 2011, when she was elected as a state senator. In 2009 and 2010, Ernst’s father’s company, Culver Construction, was awarded six county contracts worth over $215,000. Last week, the American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint with Iowa Attorney General Tim Miller, asking him if there was a clear conflict of interest in the awarding of the contracts.

Salon ran a piece by Luke Brinker about the potential conflict of interest earlier this week. Brinker argued that based on a reading of the laws of Iowa, it is quite possible that Ernst was indeed in violation of conflict of interest codes. Brinker wrote the following in his article:

Ernst was elected Montgomery County auditor in 2004, serving in that role until her 2011 election to the state Senate seat she currently holds. Among the duties a county auditor “may perform,” according to the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, are issuing contract bid notices and soliciting and receiving contract proposals. Minutes from an April 2007 Montgomery County Supervisors meeting – printed in the Red Oak Express – note Ernst’s involvement in county contracts, stating that Ernst would “work [the] issue” of advertising bids for a roofing project in the county.

The Iowa Code lays out stringent conflict of interest standards for county contracts. Chapter 331 of the code stipulates that “[a]n officer or employee of a county shall not have an interest, direct, or indirect, in a contract with that county.” The provision applies if 5 percent of a company’s outstanding stock is owned by either a county employee or an immediate family member – including a parent – of an employee.

Still, a search by Salon of Montgomery County records reveals that Culver Construction – a construction company owned by Ernst’s father, Richard Culver – received $215,665 in county contracts during Ernst’s tenure as auditor. The six contracts, all awarded between 2009 and 2010, included five totaling $204,794 from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for such projects as road and flood damage repairs.

On Wednesday evening, KCCI 8 in Des Moines ran a story about a complaint that had been filed by the Iowa Democratic Party earlier in the day. The complaint is similar to the one filed by the ADLF, in that it claims that Ernst broke Iowa’s conflict of interest code during her time as county auditor. Like the Salon piece, KCCI pointed out the contracts in question that were awarded to Ernst’s dad. Ernst’s camp responded to KCCI, claiming that this is a “frivolous attempt to prop up a desperate campaign.”

Below is video of the story, courtesy of KCCI:



Currently, this is one of the closest races in the country. The last four polls that have been released all have the candidates within two points of each other. The last one released shows it as a dead heat. Ernst has branded herself as a Tea Party darling in the mold of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. She rose to national prominence with a campaign ad where she claimed that she grew up castrating hogs on a farm and that she’d go to Washington to “make ’em squeal.”



Since then, she’s had Palin. Mitt Romney and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), among others, stop through Iowa and campaign for her. She’s also been helped by a gaffe Braley made earlier this year where he seemed to insult farmers, which is a big no-no in corn country. However, despite the GOP pulling out the big guns for her, it appears that Ernst’s extremist ideology has limited her appeal. In a swing state like Iowa, going far to the right may not be the best course of action. This potential scandal, if it has legs, might be the tipping point for voters and lead them over to the Democrat.

20 Replies to “Conflict Of Interest: Iowa Democrats Hammer Joni Ernst Over Contracts Awarded To Her Father”

  1. BUSTED!!!

    And she hasn’t even won her seat to start getting in trouble for corruption.

    Ah, the GOP in 2014.

  2. Palin’s drunken family brawl police report has just been released by the Anchorage PD. I don’t think Joni is going to want Sarah standing too close as the tabloids and snark-fest media types have at what’s in it.

  3. How come if Democrat’s does this there are calls for special prosecutors and the gulag but when the teahadist does it, its family values?

  4. Imagine what she’ll do if she’s elected senator….yikes! Let the corruption continue on..she’s disgusting!

  5. Joni and Steve King are certainly an embarrassment to many former Iowans! Guess too many moved away to seek our fortunes in non-farm jobs. Iowa used to have the best education in the country and the graduates of the Universities had to leave to find the jobs in science and engineering! Sounds like too much home schooling, evangelicals and Fox News influence swaying the thinking process to vote for these radical, Koch sponsored candidates! GO Dems! Keep them honest!

  6. She would have to clean up(figuratively)to get those castrated hog balls off from her! yuck!

  7. I have yet to hear advertising that tells the story that voters need to know.
    Democrats vote exactly as had Harry Reid Nancy Pelosi and Pres. Obama want them to vote. But when it comes time for them to run for reelection, or just an election they will tell you that they have introduced bills that will replace or fix the problems their previous votes. They know full well that Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi will never let those bills see the light of day, that way they can go back to their constituencies and say we made a small minor error in voting for XYZ Democrat Bill but we have introduced a bill that will fix the problems that are in the previous bill we voted for. By doing this they are protecting their buns and patent of sows on the back. I wanted good job were doing, knowing full well the fixing bills will never get to the Senate floor. I’m Richard Salisbury and I wait to see some kind advertising from anybody running on the Republic conservative side of this midterm election. Than…

  8. So a Democrat Party official/member of Iowa filed the complaint? Gee, I wonder why he did it now.

    Love the smell of desperation from the left.

  9. So its okay she violated her office by breaking the law and you only concern is who filed the complaint? Dumbass

  10. I love the media reports on that. I notice the police report which was released prove the press wrong. Nowhere did it say Palin screamed “do you know who I am?” And it confirms that Track tried leaving the party before his buddy was sucker punched by someone else.

    Liberal men don’t understand the concept of defending your little sister or your friend. But no crime was committed and thankfully nobody drove their car off a bridge or drowned.

  11. You may love the smell, I bet you also love the corruption of the right. Done making a spectacle of yourself?

  12. I just love this part of the report about the Wasilla hillbillies brawl
    “several guys were on top of her sister when she was on the ground.”

    Bristol’s favorite position, apparently…

  13. It absolutely baffles me why so many on the right are completely illiterate. I understand a typo now and then but sentence after sentence of jibberish has sadly become the norm.

    Richard Salisbiry – please go back to the sixth grade and learn basic English – or as your church describes it – Merkan.

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