Over his 35 years in Congress, Iowa’s Chuck Grassley has built a reputation as a government watchdog — following taxpayer dollars and how they’re used or abused — and a fighter for private business and agriculture.
But as the 77-year-old Republican senator seeks his sixth term in the Senate, his smart, able Democratic opponent, Roxanne Conlin, and critics say he’s become too cozy with Wall Street and big business. They say his oversight has lost its luster. Conlin has painted him as an extremist.
Most of Grassley’s recent record indicates otherwise. Combined with the high level of respect he rates on Capitol Hill, and his remarkable energy level, we think Iowa and the nation would benefit from another term for Grassley.
During the intense, lengthy debates over landmark health care reform and financial regulation and bailouts, Grassley often was in the thick of it — pointing out flaws that could raise costs, taxes and red tape, offsetting some of the touted benefits — yet still working for compromise.
“I want to be sure private business can survive,” balancing safety for consumers with ag and business profits, he told us. We agree with that approach.
As Grassley’s profile has risen, so has the spotlight intensified on his campaign fundraising. During the past five years, 47 percent of his campaign committee donations have come from political action committees, compared to 44 percent from individuals. Among the top five industries in Grassley contributions are health care professionals, insurance and pharmaceutical/health products.
We, too, wonder about the influence those PACs might wield on Grassley. When asked about it, he fired back: “It doesn’t keep me from investigating the pharmaceutical or insurance companies.”
Indeed, among Grassley’s recent investigative efforts is the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the government oversight agency, Food and Drug Administration. He’s also been a strong critic of the financial industry’s regulatory agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, arguing for better use of resources and stronger enforcement mechanisms.
Yes, Grassley has stumbled a few times over the past couple of years. He sometimes has seemed a less independent voice as the political climate polarized. We’d like to see a little more of the “old Chuck Grassley.”Nonetheless, we want the senator to continue injecting his voice of reason and casting his watchdog eye on the often-chaotic workings of big government.