116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Entrepreneur Steve Shriver said Friday he quit as chair of Amara Andrews’ campaign for Cedar Rapids mayor over “strategic differences” after her team acknowledged it coordinated with a political action committee to send a mailer to voters criticizing rival Tiffany O’Donnell, which O’Donnell has slammed as a potential ethics violation and troubling sign of partisanship in the race for nonpartisan office.
The mailer takes aim at O’Donnell, the Women Lead Change chief executive officer, who also is challenging incumbent Brad Hart for mayor.
The mailer states that “Tiffany O’Donnell calls herself a Reagan Republican … But she doesn’t act like one,” and criticizes her support for 1st District Rep. Ashley Hinson and Gov. Kim Reynolds, both Republicans.
The mailer states it was paid for by Iowa Voter Info, with a post office box address in Cedar Rapids. It is the same post office box that goes to the Linn County Democratic Central Committee.
Andrews’ campaign disclosure report lists in-kind contributions from the Iowa Voter Info entity with the same address — a $9,000 contribution on Oct. 2 and another on Oct. 12 totaling $7,557.23, all for direct mail.
Iowa Voter Info is a political action committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission. Its first filing date was Oct. 27, after the mailer had already been sent.
“I supported Amara because I believe in her vision for this city,” Shriver said in a statement. But he said he was “astonished” to learn her campaign was tied to the mailer and stepped away from his role, which he had “understood to be a show of support and not a functional position,” once he found out.
“Politics has become a dirty game, and one that I don’t ever want to play (that’s why I didn’t run for Mayor in the first place),” Shriver said in the statement. “I am grateful that people have the courage to run, and I’m hopeful that our city will get a good leader in the end. I wish my friend Amara Andrews the best in her race for mayor, and hope that all of you will stay engaged in our local elections.”
Bret Nilles, chair of the Linn County Democrats, said there were people from the Linn County Democrats involved but “there’s no connection directly between them” and Iowa Voter Info, meaning they are separate entities.
The post office box on the mailer and Andrews’ list of in-kind contributions was incorrect, Nilles said. It should have been a different box, one listed with the FEC as belonging to Iowa Voter Info.
Nilles said he and others from the Linn County Democrats, who he declined to name Friday, helped craft the mailer. Nilles is listed as the PAC’s designated agent and Susan Elliott-Bryan as treasurer of Linn County Democrats and the PAC.
“It's an important election,” Nilles said. “I think with a mailer, (Iowa Voter Info was) trying to identify that there's more involved than streets and potholes. There's lots of issues related to COVID and to social justice and to the population of Cedar Rapids, which is a big deal.”
Andrew Greenberg, an attorney with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, said advertising coordinated with a campaign would come as an in-kind contribution. That’s how this mailer was done. Greenberg said he was still looking into the mailer for potential ethics issues.
Barry Boyer, an O’Donnell supported, filed a complaint with the board taking issue with what he says was the PAC’s failure to register as a city PAC.
Nilles said community organizer Sami Scheetz, also a candidate seeking election to the Iowa House, was the Andrews’ campaign representative who worked with the Iowa Voter Info PAC. Scheetz confirmed he was involved.
“Our campaign did, in fact, make the decision to coordinate with this organization,” the Andrews campaign said in a statement, adding that it supports efforts to provide voters with information about candidates.
Of the erroneous post office box, Greenberg said, “Usually with the attribution statements they can be corrected — either doing a new mailer or doing some other kind of correction notice.”
O’Donnell said the process behind the mailer “shows multiple potential ethics violations, and plain old bad judgment.”
“Transparency is critical in governance and Ms. Andrews has shown repeatedly that when given a choice she will choose to hide inconvenient information from voters,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “She says she won’t be partisan if elected, though she’s run the most openly partisan and divisive campaign in Cedar Rapids history … Cedar Rapids voters deserve better than this.”
At an Oct. 18 forum in the Cedar Rapids Public Library, Andrews said that before launching her own bid for City Hall she had arranged a meeting for O’Donnell and some other leaders in the community where they discussed issues such as social justice and climate change.
“During that meeting, Tiffany said that she was a Reagan Republican,” Andrews said. “And that’s fine … Reagan does not espouse my values.” Her campaign also has said O'Donnell supported former President Donald Trump.
O’Donnell said she has a track record of with working with those from other political parties, and it is “inconvenient for the Andrews campaign to talk about all the Democrats I’ve supported” — including and former Iowa gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell and Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, who is working on Andrews’ campaign.
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