Governor Branstad Monday downplayed a controversy over his signing last week of a controversial bill wiping out most collective bargaining rights for Iowa’s public workers.
A lobbyist for a conservative group that backed the bill was on hand for the bill-signing which was off-limits to the public.
Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, lobbied for the bill.
The group’s Iowa Director Drew Klein had his picture taken with the Governor at the bill-signing table. The photo ended up on Twitter.
Branstad says it’s not a big deal.
“I have pictures with just about anyone who wants their picture,” Branstad says. “If anybody wants to come in and have a picture I’m accommodating.”
In spite of their requests, the Branstad team did not inform the media about the signing which would likely have drawn crowds of opponents. But Branstad says a few people who requested, including Drew Klein, were allowed to attend.
“I didn’t have anything to do with that,” Branstad says. “I don’t even know him.”
The bill eliminates most collective bargaining rights for public workers and affects their ability to organize, and opposition from workers and their Democratic allies has been fierce.
Klein was one of a handful of bill supporters who spoke out in favor of the bill last week while thousands of opponents came to the capitol to protest.
“Unbelievable,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Rapids). “Secret money super pac punk gets private bill signing handshake while working Iowans get kicked to the curb.”
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Danny Homan says the photo op shows how much influence outside conservative groups had in fashioning the bill.
“That said volumes to me as to who was pulling the strings,” Homan says.
The governor also downplays the money outside conservative groups spent in support of the bill.