Veterans group plans field campaign on Braley's behalf

 ·  Jason Noble, Des Moines Register   ·   Link to Article

It's not just advertising that independent campaign gr oups are pouring into Iowa to support candidates in high-profile races here.

VoteVets, a national liberal advocacy group supporting Bruce Braley's candidacy for U.S. Senate this year, will spend $600,000 between now and Election Day on voter canvassing in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport.

The effort will encompass 2,500 "canvasser shifts" and aims to knock on 150,000 doors by Nov. 4. Canvassers will be pressing voters to support Braley, but talking specifically about the renewable fuel standard – the federal mandate for blending biofuels like ethanol into petroleum fuels.

Group chairman Jon Soltz confirmed the voter-contact campaign to the Register in an interview on Friday.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is considering a reduction in the fuel standard – a move that would lower the amount of ethanol required to be added to fuel. Iowa policymakers worry that would reduce demand for corn and endanger the state's agricultural economy.

Both Braley and Republican candidate Joni Ernst have expressed support for the renewable fuel standard, although Democrats have seized on comments from Ernst saying she "philosophically" opposes energy subsidies and would support ending the RFS alongside all other subsidies.

Ernst has also accepted campaign contributions from oil-and-gas companies which have opposed ethanol mandates.

The VoteVets messaging will highlight Braley's support for the RFS and focus on the importance of renewable fuels as a national security issue, as they reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil. The group has built campaigns around environmental messages and received substantial money from environmental groups in previous election cycles.

Ernst, Soltz charged, has supported the RFS only when it's politically necessary to do so: "Joni Ernst has a good military record, there's no question that her service has been commendable, but when you're so wrong on such a local issue in Iowa that affects veterans across the country and our military, there's just no way we can turn our back on an issue for a person."

The Ernst campaign fired back that VoteVets' characterization of her position was "false and misleading," and pointed to several Iowa state Senate votes in which Ernst supported renewable fuels. Among these was a nonbinding resolution in which the Senate explicitly called on Congress to support "a robust and sustainable RFS."

"Joni is the only veteran in the race and has supported renewable fuels in the Iowa Senate, and will continue to passionately defend the RFS in the U.S. Senate," campaign spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said. "Joni will fight for Iowa and Iowa agriculture -- that's why the Iowa Farm Bureau endorsed her this week."


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