Last year, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow same sex marriage in Iowa. This year, Iowans will vote on whether to keep or boot three of the seven justices who decided that case — and the campaign has attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars from national anti-gay groups.
In Iowa, judges are appointed, not elected. But at the end of every judge’s term, he or she goes up for “retention,” meaning the populace votes whether to keep them around or throw them out.
The National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association and the Family Research Council have seized on the chance to “fire” three of the justices, including Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, and are spending money — more than $700,000 so far — asking people to vote against retention. The campaign has also drawn cash from those who support gay marriage, and the justices themselves; the overwhelming majority of independent expenditures in the state, in fact, have been directed at the judicial retention race.
The AFA — one of whose executives, Bryan Fischer, has said it was homosexual soldiers who committed the worst Nazi atrocities — is the most involved on the ground, spearheading the movement through a group called Iowa For Freedom. The group is lead by three-time gubernational candidate Bob Vander Plaats.
“If they do this to marriage — make law, execute law, amend the Constitution, hand out rights that our Founders could never have imagined — they won’t even blink an eye as they take your private property,” Vander Plaats said at a recent event. “They won’t even blink an eye as they take away your Second Amendment rights, they won’t even blink an eye while telling you how you have to educate your children. They won’t even blink an eye when they get to determine who gets to live and who gets to die, in regards to which life is valuable and which one is not.”
AFA, through Iowa For Freedom, has spent about $85,395 on the effort so far, according to the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board. The Campaign for Working Families, a PAC run by ultra-conservative former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, has spent $100,000 on TV ads.
NOM, however, is the big spender, laying out more than $500,000, including $435,000 on ads and $83,000 on a bus tour which kicked off yesterday. Of that $83,000, $60,000 was spent on texts alerting Iowans of the tour.
The tour, which has been dubbed the Judge Bus, is populated by stars of the anti-gay movement. The kickoff event Monday featured NOM president Brian Brown, FRC director Tony Perkins, former senator and likely presidential candidate Rick Santorum (who once compared same-sex relationships to “man on dog”), Rep. Steve King (who once said that same sex marriage would lead to the recognition of incestuous relationships and socialism) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (who once said that legalizing same-sex marriage would lead to the legalization of bestiality and necrophilia).
The bus is making 20 stops over four days. The FRC chipped in, spending $4,300 for phone calls to announce the bus tour and almost $15,000 for the bus’s purple wrapper. Iowa for Freedom is listed on the bus tour’s web site, but the executive director of the AFA Action Fund, which runs IFF, told TPMmuckraker his group isn’t involved with the tour.
The executive director, David Lane, did say AFA is “very involved in Iowa.”
“It’s not just about Iowa,” Lane said. “The issue is unelected and unaccountable judges imposing their will over the legislature. … It has nothing to do with homosexual marriage. It has to do with a judiciary that’s totally out of control and imposing its will on free people. And when you do that, you’re no longer free,” he told TPMmuckraker. “They can steal your land! That’s the issue.”
Those in favor of keeping the justices are also spending. Fair Courts for Us, a bipartisan effort to keep the justices on the bench, has spent more than $300,000 on radio ads, polls, postcards and other efforts. And gay rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, have launched a counter-effort to the bus tour, sending a tracker to follow the tour.