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Steckman, Ragan answer to Chamber of Commerce this past December

This news story was published on January 21, 2013.
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MASON CITY – Legislators Amanda Ragan and Sharon Steckman met with the Mason City Chamber of Commerce in December as well as this month, has learned.

According to a publicly-viewable Chamber of Commerce newsletter released this month, “State Senator Amanda Ragan and Representative Sharon Steckman attended the December meeting of the Mason City Chamber Board to discuss topics likely to come before the 2013 state legislature.”

Apparently, Steckman and Ragan personally attended a Chamber Board meeting held at the exclusive “North Iowa Commerce Center,” a building fully owned by the Chamber and in general only open for use by members of the Chamber of Commerce, although largely paid for with public tax dollars.

Sharon Steckman (left) and Amanda Ragan (right) met with The Chamber of Commerce's Robin Anderson at the Iowa Capitol this week.

Sharon Steckman (left) and Amanda Ragan (right) met with The Chamber of Commerce’s Robin Anderson at the Iowa Capitol last week.

At a town hall meeting held on Saturday, January 19th, both Steckman and Ragan admitted to seeing Chamber of Commerce Director Robin Anderson in Des Moines, meeting with her at the State Capitol.  “We meet with lots of people who do not agree with us,” Sen. Ragan explained.

Local media have lavished praise onto the two beloved legislators from North Iowa, who are strong Democrats, for securing $1.5 million dollars for the Chamber of Commerce’s new headquarters in downtown Mason City.

Steckman and Ragan were both questioned by NIT Publisher Matt Marquardt at Saturday’s town hall meeting regarding their relationship with the organization.  The Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying organization that is against raising minimum wages, is against the rights of workers, is in favor of de-regulating Wall Street, is anti-environment and is pro big business.

At that town hall meeting, Senator Ragan claimed no knowledge of any agenda by the Chamber of Commerce.

A screenshot from the publicly-viewable Chamber of Commerce newsletter from January of 2013.

A screenshot from the publicly-viewable Chamber of Commerce newsletter from January of 2013.



The Mason City Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is stocked with persons who run some of the biggest businesses in Mason City, as well as members of the media.  Some of these businesses are known to pay low wages, employ the use of staffing agencies and in at least one case, farm out their labor to overseas workers.  Several businesses listed below have received significant public funds to expand their operations.


Tom O’Neill
Lehigh Cement Co.

Debra Derr

Bob Klocke
First Citizens National Bank

John Michel
Past President
Kraft Foods

David Laudner
Government Affairs DVP
Heiny McManigal Law Firm

Kent Brcka
Business DVP
Henkel Construction Co.

Mike Castle
Community & Events DVP
Northwestern Mutual Financial Network

Glenys Schloemer
Southbridge Mall


Stewart Anderson
Wal-Mart SuperCenter

Jim Coloff
98.7 Kiss Country/103.7 The Fox/KIOW 107.3/KCHA 95.9

Dr. Timothy Gibbons
Mason City Clinic

Gary Hall
ISU Extension

Brian Janssen
Allied Purchasing

Kim Pang
Diamond Jo Casino

Howard Query
Globe Gazette

Scott Smith
Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa

Troy Swanson
Cargill Kitchen Solutions

Bart Walker

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14 Responses to Steckman, Ragan answer to Chamber of Commerce this past December

  1. Avatar

    John Colombo Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Representatives are elected to represent ALL of the people of their district. Some of the folks who live in their districts agree with the principals of the chamber, and thus the chamber should have a right to meet with their legislators. Just like my union has a right to meet with them, and express our opinions. This tabloid like reporting is kinda getting old Matt. Just report the news and stop trying to turn this site into the Jerry Springer show with everything you “report”.

  2. Avatar

    4ever49 Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Matt – If a business budgets so many $ for entry level positions (& budgets are a necessary component of their overall cost structure & success vs. failure) and the minimum is raised, then fewer people can be hired for the same $ – right? As regards Wal-Mart (Target, K-Mart, Shopko, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Menards, Mills Fleet Farm, etc.) – are we all not customers of these retailers seeking the best deal available? Driving up their cost of doing business will come directly out of the pockets of the customers – who are also amongst the “common man” I believe.
    So you think the Chamber is not interested in expanding the commercial base of the area and to think otherwise is preposterous. What is really preposterous is denying that the Chamber depends on its member base and further, would not want to garner more members. Expanding the base would be a key component in that endeavor.
    I see you have numerous other places the $1.5mm could have been spent – including the “starving children of North Iowa.” Aren’t there already in place programs (WIC, Food Stamps, free school lunches, etc.) that address this need? What other projects do you think would benefit more people – job training perhaps? Oh, I think that’s covered already. Debt? For who?
    While we’re at it consider this irony:
    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year, the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 46 million people.
    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.” Their stated reason for the policy is because “The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      @49: Your first remark is true to an extent, but the big businesses you listed solved their “cost of doing business” problem some time ago by not buying American. They get most of their cheap plastic junk we are addicted to from China and other developing nations where it is made at a fraction of the cost. They also raise prices on their goods to match inflation and their own costs and expenses while continuing to pay their workers the least amount possible.

      Regarding your second remark, I’m sure the Chamber would love to have more businesses come to North Iowa. They would want this for the obvious reason of growing their memberships and dues revenue. They don’t care how many these businesses employ or if they have good intentions. They just want dues to be paid, period. When did I deny they would not want more members? Hello, read what I have been writing for weeks.

      Regarding your third remark, it doesnt make much sense, but it sounds like you advocate for more public assistance and handouts. I had mentioned debt in my last comment as a burden that the $1.5 million could be used to pay off.

      Lastly, I am appalled that you are equating hungry children with animals. I sincerely hope you mis-typed that. It is not a kid’s fault his parents can’t feed her, for whatever reason that may be (no job, drug problem, unemployed, down on their luck, whatever.) I stated that $1.5 million is overkill for the Commerce Center project and some of those dollars could have went to a program (perhaps created by Mrs. Steckman and Mrs. Ragan??) that put a few more scraps of food in a hungry kid’s backpack so they could eat a dinner. Maybe that is asking to much and maybe that is way over their heads, but I would like to think they are capable of thinking out of the box when they are not at the Chamber headquarters strategizing.

      PS: Where are the bloggers with the guts to type a comment using their real name?

      • Avatar

        4ever49 Reply Report comment

        January 23, 2013 at 9:35 am

        Matt – you are now inserting your personal opinion as to the quality of products offered by retailers. If you will recall, NAFTA and other legislation played a big role in stuff from developing nations. If the buyers did not want them they would not buy.
        I do not advocate for more public assistance and handouts. I was conflicted about inserting the “irony” comment paragraph as I just knew you would pounce with your “equating hungry children with animals” comment. You missed the real point of the “irony” comment which is that endless free stuff really disables incentive and leads to more and more dependence. Somehow personal responsibility has to be on the table. Try thinking “out of the box” in that arena.
        As to using my real name – I prefer to stay focused on the ideas discussed rather than on the person expressing them.

  3. Avatar

    Katie Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I don’t know how some of the people on these community boards get anything done except going to meetings. When do they get time to do their real jobs? LOL

    I don’t disagree with the Chamber’s position about ObamaCare being a job killer. There will be a lot fewer full-time jobs and a lot fewer jobs with benefits if the fines cost less than the employer’s share of the insurance premiums. Just the paperwork will be enough to make small businesses figure out a way to quit offering insurance. Someone needs to start a business just doing ObamaCare paperwork for businesses who don’t want to do all the stupid computations they require. They are so worried that an employer might get a bigger or better policy than an employee that they are downright paranoid. How about we audit Congress to make sure they aren’t getting bigger and better benefits than We, the People?

  4. Avatar

    4ever49 Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 9:01 am

    So Matt, I see you claim the Chamber is “against raising minimum wages, is against the rights of workers, is in favor of de-regulating Wall Street, is anti-environment and is pro big business.”
    If that is the case, does this disqualify them from accessing legislators and pressing their case? Do they not also pay taxes?
    I believe it is ok for those groups that hold opposing views to access legislators and do the same and assume you do as well.

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

      No, just because the Chamber lobbies for certain issues does not disqualify it from seeking an audience with any legislator. It doesn’t disqualify it from anything. Any person or group is entitled to a belief system. I think this is still America.

      However, no one said Mrs. Steckman and Mrs. Ragan have to do the Chamber’s bidding, either. We have plenty of right-wing Republican legislators who the Chamber could take an audience with to “discuss topics likely to come before the state legislature.” If Mrs. Steckman and Mrs. Ragan believe in the Chamber of Commerce and want to help it, so be it, that is their decision. I am merely pointing out that as Democrats and legislators who generally champion rights of workers, the poor, the common man, they are being counter-productive by aiding and abetting the cause of the Chamber of Commerce. They are helping to undo everything they are trying to accomplish as legislators.

      If you watched the town hall meeting video and heard about the hunger, under-employment, lack of jobs, crime, etc in Mason City and North Iowa, one may wonder why Mrs. Steckman and Mrs. Ragan are spending time, energy and millions of tax dollars on an organization that had given literally nothing back to the people suffering from those issues.

      • Avatar

        4ever49 Reply Report comment

        January 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        I did watch the video and looked over the board members of the Chamber.
        I think elsewhere you say the Chamber (at the national level) seeks to curtail the “rights” of workers by opposing increasing minimum wage levels. I believe it has been proven that increasing the minimum wage tends to restrict the number of entry level positions and is counterproductive.
        It appears to be that the board is populated by some of the larger employers here in town – those that do provide employment to the “common man” as you term it. For the legislative representatives to do something in support of an organization that purportedly seeks to expand the commercial base of the area I am supportive of that effort as it is more in the area of long term sustainability. If Ragan and Steckman did not support to the Chamber just how would you propose to otherwise spend the funds – and what would its benefit be? More for the community kitchen, etc.?

        • Avatar

          Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

          January 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm

          First of all, I’d like to see your proof that any raise to the minimum wage is counterproductive. Who proved this, using what methodology? (I’m not taking a stance on raising or lowering the minimum wage. I just want to see your proof here.)

          I would ask you, what is the largest cost of doing business at a place like, say, Wal-Mart, whose store manager sits on the Chamber board? It is labor. Is it not in his best interest to keep his wages as low as possible? Does the board, in theory, run the Chamber, when Robin let’s them?

          I also ask you to prove your statement “an organization that purportedly seeks to expand the commercial base of the area.” This is preposterous. The Chamber would only lift a finger to do this if those businesses were going to join the Chamber and pay dues. The Chamber cares only for increasing its memberships and dues revenue and using that to push its agenda.

          Then you state another odd assumption: “If Ragan and Steckman did not support to the Chamber just how would you propose to otherwise spend the funds.”

          What funds are you referring to? The $1.5 million? I can think of hundreds of other causes and projects where the dollars could have gone. How about infrastructure? Debt? How about saving it for a more worthy project that benefits more people? How about using it for some of the starving children in North Iowa I heard so much about?

          Try again 49.

  5. Avatar

    LVS Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 8:40 am

    I believe it is true. If they are a lobbying organization public funds should not have been used. We need to get the Chamber out of our local government. Now I know what Max was talking about. It is a shame. I really thought better of Steckman but Ragan doesn’t surprise me at all.

  6. Avatar

    enlightening Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Matt are you sure they are a lobbying organization though? I can’t find them on this list

    This is interesting to me as I didn’t see the chamber that way (my ignorance?). I saw them as a local governmental type of entity.

    Even though I am a fan of Steckman and Ragan, I’m glad you are bringing this to light and I would like more clarification.

    Do they have a registered lobbyist? Do they have an official platform we could read?

    If they are a lobbying organization, then public funds shouldn’t have paid to make the inside of that building palatial. I like nice things, and the inside of that building is beautiful, but shouldn’t have been public funds if this is a private organization.

    Thanks again Matt for your willingness to take issues on.

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

      Thank you for the kind words.

      I would say this: I do not believe you actually have to be on the registered list of “lobbyists” to in reality BE a lobbyist. Do not people of influence make phone calls and visits to legislators at all levels of government to try and get what they want?

      Case in point: Robin Anderson is able to get on a city council work session agenda – an audience with our mayor and city council – and argue her case (lobby) for $40K of public dollars for sculptures, not to mention city employees’ time and effort to install them. One week later, the council approves it 6-0. The Chamber is not listed as a “lobby” with the city either but yet Robin Anderson was able to lean on our elected officials and obtain public money.

      By the way, Anderson is next headed to Washington D.C. and will visit numerous federal elected officials- with our own locally-elected officials at her side to grant her legitimacy. She has her mitts into all three levels of government.

    • Avatar

      Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      January 22, 2013 at 11:24 am

      Let me help you a little more. Try “googling” this: “chamber of commerce lobby” and start looking at results. It is commonly known that the Chamber of Commerce is a lobby group, with an agenda. Is there anything wrong with that? No. I am simply pointing out that in North Iowa and specifically Mason City, it exerts too much power and control and is diametrically opposed to the good and well-being of the average citizen. That is my entire point.

      The Chamber has emerged as the largest lobbying organization in America. It spent $91.7 million on lobbying in 2008, and $144.5 million in 2009, up from $18.7 million in 2000. The Chamber’s lobbying expenditures in 2009 were five times as high as the next highest spender: Exxon Mobil, at $27.4 million.[19] The Chamber had more than 150 lobbyists from 25 different firms working on its behalf in 2009. The major issues that it advocated on were in the categories of torts, government issues, finance, banking and taxes.

      Climate change

      The climate campaign organisation estimates that 94% of US Chamber of Commerce electoral contributions went to candidates denying the scientific consensus on climate change.


      In April 2009, the Chamber began an ad campaign against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act.[47] Critics such as the National Association of Manufacturers have contended that additional use of card check elections will lead to overt coercion on the part of union organizers. Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act also claim, referring to perceived lack of access to a secret ballot, that the measure would not protect employee privacy. For this reason the Chamber argued the act would reduce workers’ rights.[48]

      It has been reported that the Chamber has falsely inflated the number of members, claiming that it has 3 million members versus actual membership of 300,000.[49] The Chamber says this is a “misunderstanding of the U.S. Chamber’s structure”, as the membership of the US Chamber of Commerce is 300,000, but the membership of all of its regional affiliates combined is 3 million.[6]

      In November 2009, the Chamber was reported to be seeking to spend $50,000 to hire a “respected economist” to produce a study that could be used to portray health-care legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation’s economy.[50]

      In December 2009, activist group Velvet Revolution, under the name StopTheChamber, posted a $200,000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donahue”.[51]

      Some in the business community have criticized the Chamber’s approach to public issues as overly aggressive. Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America added, “Their aggressive ways are out of step with a new generation of business leadership who are looking for more cooperative relationship with Washington.”[52] In 2010 the U.S. Chamber created a page on their web site to respond to controversies that arise.[53]

      Just read for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

  7. Avatar

    Cheter Pildren Reply Report comment

    January 22, 2013 at 12:52 am

    I like the picture of Steckman. Classic photo of a clueless, not knowing what is going on around her, out of touch, dumb as all get out human being!!