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Ethics panel: Reynolds OK to take 9 rides on private jets

September 20, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds did nothing wrong in accepting nine rides on private jets in the last 14 months, a state ethics board said Thursday, concluding they were legitimate in-kind campaign contributions allowable under Iowa’s gift law.

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board considered two complaints about a December trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, when Reynolds, her husband and two children flew on a private jet owned by the chief executive of Sedgwick. The company was paid $1 million last year to administer workers’ compensation claims for state employees.

Attorney Gary Dickey, a Democrat, said the $2,880 claimed for four seats on the jet in campaign documents underestimated the value of the flight by thousands of dollars.

Dickey said he obtained bids for the value of corporate jet flights and found the value to be between $2,290 and $4,229 per passenger.

Megan Tooker, the attorney for the board, said the state’s rules allow campaigns to value the flights at the cost of a commercial airline flight when an equivalent flight is available. The board concluded the estimate the Reynolds campaign claimed was reasonable.

Another complaint questioned whether the Reynolds family bowl game trip could legitimately qualify as a campaign trip.

According to Tooker, Reynolds’ campaign said she met with donors in Memphis who also were in town for the bowl game and her committee reported campaign contributions.

“It is not unusual or illegal for an elected official to intersperse campaign activities with official duties or even personal time provided the state does not pay for campaign activities and the candidate’s committee does not pay for personal expenses,” she said.

Tooker said her research shows previous Democratic candidates also have reported similar in-kind flights to events. She said they include Sen. Jack Hatch, who ran for governor in 2014 and reported three flights, and former Gov. Tom Vilsack, who also reported three flights during one of his campaigns.

The board’s records report flights that Reynolds accepted from insurance and casino executive Gerald Kirke, two flights from Sedgwick CEO David North including one in October that was in addition to the Liberty Bowl trip, and flights from Iowa City entrepreneur David Barker and from Bruce Rastetter, a wealthy Republican donor who also flew Reynolds’ predecessor Terry Branstad on a private jet.

The board voted to dismiss the complaints against Reynolds concluding the flights were “legitimate in-kind campaign contributions and allowable under Iowa’s gift law.”

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