It’s been surprising how many readers have responded to the articles about State Senator Brian Schoenjahn. In May, TheIowaRepublican.com published a photograph of Schoenjahn having Iowa Senate pages load his pickup truck full of Iowa road maps. Last week, TheIowaRepublican.com published another photograph of Schoenjahn passing out the maps in a parade in Readlyn.
In each article, we have also published the Iowa Code, which clearly states that the maps can’t be used for used for purposes of personal or professional gain. While most politicians purchase note pads, candy, pens, or even nail files to pass out to parade goers, Schoenjahn is passing out road maps that are paid for by Iowa taxpayers. Most Republicans see this an abuse of taxpayer funds. Democrats say that everyone is doing it, and the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) encourages legislators to distribute the maps despite the statutory prohibition.
TheIowaRepublican.com did contact the Iowa DOT and requested “a large quantity” of maps that could be used by a candidate in a parade. An Iowa DOT official responded by via email stating, “How many is a large quantity? Do you want to pick up at our warehouse in Ames?” We then asked the official if the practice was legal and provided her with a copy of the Iowa Code.
The Iowa DOT official responded by writing, “You can hand them [Iowa road maps] out but you cannot affix any sticker, paper, etc. on it with candidates [sic] name or political party information.”
Despite the Iowa DOT constantly requesting an increase in Iowa’s gas tax so they can do more road projects, it’s apparently no burden for them to provide political candidates with materials to pass out to potential voters. Heaven help us if Hy-Vee or Kum & Go wanted to start passing out free road maps.
Before you think that Schoenjahn is free to continue passing out Iowa road maps, TheIowaRepublican.com was provided the following picture that shows that he does affix a sticker on the maps that says, “Courtesy of Senator Brian Schoenjahn, PO Box 117, Arlington, IA 50606.” The sticker also includes a phone number and email address, which is not his legislative email address.
The practice of politicians using Iowa DOT Road maps as campaign material should stop, not just because the code forbids it, but also because it is a waste of taxpayer money. It’s not just that Schoenjahn got some free campaign literature, but he used state employees, high school pages, to load them in his pickup truck for him. While pages are to there to help senators with various tasks, I doubt these young girls signed up for the program to load boxes of maps into the back of a pickup truck.
Furthermore, even though the Iowa DOT is okay with candidates handing out the maps, Schoenjahn is clearly violating the code by placing a sticker on the back of the map which says “Courtesy of Senator Brian Schoenjahn.”
Unfortunately, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB) says the matter is outside of their jurisdiction. Apparently a state senator essentially making Iowa taxpayers spring for his campaign materials somehow is not a campaign finance issue. Instead, Megan Tooker, the Executive Director/Legal Counsel for the IECDB, instructed TheIowaRepublican.com to take up the matter with the Iowa DOT. We did, and they said it was in violation of the code to alter the map by placing a sticker on it. So if the IECDB doesn’t enforce the campaign law that is clearly stated in the code, who does?
- Sen. Schoenjahn Helps Himself to Truck Load of Iowa Road Maps (theiowarepublican.com)
- Schoenjahn Uses Iowa Road Maps For Campaign Materials (theiowarepublican.com)