TRAVEL TRAIL: Difficulty Tracking Governor’s Trips
Tuesday, Governor Terry Branstad spent his first day back in Iowa following a 10-day European trip to Germany, Kosovo, Switzerland and Italy.
Branstad took the trip with his wife, Chris, along with Debi Durham, the Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Both said they couldn’t release specific details from specific people or companies represented in their talks overseas.
Confidentiality is a key part of the governor’s travels as he tries to recruit more business to Iowa, part of his efforts to create 200,000 jobs over 5 years.
Branstad said confidentiality is required because talks are sensitive with companies as they discuss choosing one state over another when it comes to opening new facilities or moving existing facilities.
When it comes to specifics, Branstad said last week from Parma, Italy, “We really can’t talk about those types of things.”
Channel 13 News went through hundreds of documents covering dozens of trips Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds took since they took office in January, 2011.The documents included reimbursement requests for travel-related expenses including meals, flights and lodging.
Reading through the documents allows Iowans to see how much they pay to send the administration across the world and what expenses taxpayers cover.
Other documents show the confidential side of some of the travel trips. Some forms will include words, “IDEA will reimburse.” The IEDA, or Iowa Economic Development Authority, offers this on its website about its purpose:
The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) offers a variety of programs and services to individuals, communities and businesses to attract and grow business, employment and workforce in Iowa. Ground-breaking economic growth strategies focusing on cultivating start-up companies and helping existing companies become more innovative complement the activities underway to retain and attract companies that are creating jobs for Iowans. Developing sustainable, adaptable communities ready for this growth is also an essential part of our work at IEDA — providing programs and resources that help communities reinvest, recover and revitalize to make each community’s vision a reality. Much of what you know about Iowa is true. It’s what you don’t know that sets us apart.
The department has a foundation that pays for some of the governor’s travel-related expenses. Private businesses can contribute to that foundation. The setup also allows certain travel information to remain private, meaning Iowans can’t track which company Branstad visited or with whom he talked.
Branstad maintains the policy is good business and good for the state’s bottom line.
The governor said, “Many of the private organizations in the state of Iowa see tremendous benefit to our state and our state’s economy that they’re willing to make private contributions to support economic development. We think that’s better than taxpayers paying the entire cost of it. “
Branstad believes the system allows him to travel more places than his predecessor, close more deals and spend less taxpayer money.
Here is a cost comparison to taxpayers from travel reimbursement records provided by the Iowa Department of Administrative Services:
Governor Branstad (January, 2011-April, 2013) — $28,305
Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds — $11,515.31
Governor Chet Culver (January, 2007-January, 2011) — $88,471.43
Lt. Governor Patty Judge — $13,910.19
The Iowa Economic Development Authority released these lists of donors who helped pay for the state’s job-recruiting efforts.
Here are international trips the Iowa Economic Development Authority Foundation funded.