Editor’s note: NIT received the following editorial from a North Iowa resident and subscriber who wants it published, but, citing fears of reprisals from the names and groups mentioned who have interacted with Dr. Blodgett, cannot include a byline. Knowing the sheer viciousness of these entities, we have agreed to post the editorial, as the source is valid.
In his October 27 weekly column, Globe-Gazette reporter John Skipper wrote about Dr. Gary B. Blodgett, known for many decades as north Iowa’s “Republican Patriarch”. I have met (know) Gary Blodgett, who has, indeed, been a pillar of the Cerro Gordo county Establishment for nearly 50 years. I like and respect him, as he’s a nice guy who has done much good over the years for north Iowa. But his disproportionate influence on our area elections marginalizes the ability of average north Iowans to have much of a voice in choosing leaders. At 77, Blodgett is at an age where most men are fully retired. Even those who have spent decades in the public eye, as he has, ease up. It would benefit the public, in my view, if Doc would give it a rest – and the sooner, the better. Blodgett’s fundraising prowess, which directly stems from his prominence, personal wealth, social circle, and influential connections in high places, is such that once he gets behind a candidate or a campaign, success is all but assured for his choices. Skipper refers to Blodgett as a political “kingmaker”, which is accurate, considering how often the doc ends up funding the winning side. But I believe that doc’s inordinate influence and political power is bad for democracy.
Doc’s defenders, including John Skipper, his wealthy supporters, the Country Club crowd, and the business community, say anyone can do what Gary does. That’s partly true, but even then, only in theory. The reality is that extremely few individuals possess the gravitas to appeal on behalf of a first-time candidate seeking a minor office and raise over $30,000 in just two weeks’ time. Blodgett’s ability to do this in election after election tilts things his way, heavily favoring his hand-picked choices, causes, and right-wing agenda. This makes it nearly impossible for others to compete. The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Commission website shows that the two other Republicans and the three Democrats who ran in the 2014 Primary for the seat on the Cerro Gordo county Board of Supervisors sought by Casey Callanan raised only paltry sums. Mr. Callanan is a Blodgett protégé and beneficiary of his association with Gary. As a high school student, Callanan was an intern in Doc’s office when Blodgett represented north Iowa in the state Legislature. Gary also helped him land a Washington, D. C. internship with a Congressional committee in the U. S. House of Representatives. His letter on Callanan’s behalf raised more than twice as much money by early March, 2014, than all FIVE of the other candidates COMBINED were able to raise throughout the entire Primary election campaign, which lasted six months. Not surprisingly, Casey Callanan handily won the GOP nomination for 2nd district county Supervisor, and is the odds-on favorite to win the upcoming general election. Blodgett in 1988 began raising funds for Urdahl, and has done it in every election since, except when he served in the Bush Administration in Washington D. C. Basically, Gary Blodgett builds an impenetrable financial firewall which insulates his favored candidates and causes from having to raise cash, and ensures that pro-Blodgett candidates always have more money than everyone else combined. The large sums doc raises set the bar so high that it essentially guarantees victory to his cronies and causes. In 2012, Chris Watts was closing in on incumbent county Supervisor Phil Dougherty, and was well on track to knock him out of office. Then, only weeks before the election, the Blodgett political operation and money machine cranked out letters bearing his signature. Those letters were followed up by pro-Dougherty brochures, featuring a grateful Dougherty standing beside Blodgett, on one of doc’s lakefront properties in Clear Lake. Gary’s anti-Watts letters and brochures flooded mailboxes: every registered Republican and Independent got them. The mailers warned that electing Watts may cause Property Tax rates to rise. In the end, a switch of about 300 votes would have elected Watts, who gave Phil his closest-ever win. In 2010, an organized effort was underway to ensure better, more effective representation on the Board of Supervisors, by adding two members. More than enough signatures were collected on the Petition Drive, and the issue qualified for inclusion on the fall ballot. But then Gary Blodgett weighed in, raised funds, and authorized mailings he signed to voters, warning that taxes would go up under an expanded Board. Doc even formed a Political Action Committee called Taxpayers Against Wasteful Government. This PAC underwrote the costs of Gary’s radio spots, mailings, and newspaper advertisements, against welcoming two new Supervisors. Blodgett won again, at the expense of average north Iowans, Union members, schools, students, and teachers, the downtrodden, and our senior citizens.
Longtime county Supervisor Jay Urdahl has arguably benefited the most from Dr. Blodgett’s support, money, and endorsements. Gary has for nearly 30 years been Urdahl’s major backer. Every four years since jay’s first race in 1988, the multimillionaire retired orthodontist has passed the hat for this part-time UPS box sorter, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. In 2012 Blodgett’s cash operation again paved a gold-plated path to Jay’s seventh term. Reports filed with the state of Iowa (available online) show that $17,144.97 – raised chiefly by Doc – was STILL on hand in Urdahl’s re-election committee’s checking account AFTER the election. Urdahl’s political career proves just how decisive having old doc’s backing in political races can be. Blodgett’s support and money transformed Urdahl from a nondescript, unknown, hourly UPS box sorter/loader of no importance, into one of the most powerful, longest-serving county officials in Cerro Gordo history. Mason City Democrats Joe LaPointe, Mike Dunn, and others who ran against Blodgett for his Legislative seat in the 1990s were outspent, on average, by approximately 15 to one. Curiously, doc’s choices for public office and his support for, and/or opposition to, other political causes, don’t totally reflect his personal nature, which is genuinely humanitarian. Records filed with the Iowa Secretary of State show that Blodgett still serves on the Board of Directors of the Bertha Stebbens Charitable Trust. This well-funded entity has disbursed multi-millions of dollars to needy north Iowans and worthy causes since its inception in 1975. Reliable sources say that Dr. Blodgett and his wife, Sandy, have made generous financial contributions to several area charities, including the United Way, the historic Park Inn, the Public Library renovation fund, the Clear Lake Fireworks project, the MacNider Art Museum, the Four Oaks Residential Treatment Facility, Prairie Ridge Rehabilitation Center, and many others. So why would someone who personally supports all these charitable endeavors and public improvement projects favor right-wing political candidates? Does Gary simply like to effectively dictate who will hold the reins of power? It certainly seems so. Since retiring from the Bush administration in 2008, Blodgett has raised money for Republicans ranging from Gov. Terry Branstad, U. S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Congressmen Steve King and Tom Latham, Republican U. S. Senate nominee Joni Ernst, and Mitt Romney. It is to the detriment of average people, and to north Iowa politics in general, that Dr. Blodgett doesn’t limit his Midas Touch to the Big-Name Republicans who covet his support. If he did this, or at least curtailed his involvement in lower-level campaigns, the government that is closest to We, the People, would be much the better for it.