Government

'I am retired from running for office': Ron Corbett closes gubernatorial fund donating $25K to NewBoCo

Ron Corbett speaks to journalists at the Hiawatha Public Library in Hiawatha on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Rebecca F. M
Ron Corbett speaks to journalists at the Hiawatha Public Library in Hiawatha on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Two years after his bid for governor ended, former Cedar Rapids mayor and state lawmaker Ron Corbett is closing his campaign fund by donating the remaining $25,000 to a local start-up making personal protective equipment to help health care organizations respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corbett said Monday he has decided to end his political career and not run for office again. This had been a question as to whether he would try again for some level of elected office.

“People have always encouraged me to run for office again, but I am retired from running for office,” the two-term mayor and former speaker of the Iowa House said. “But I am not retired from contributing to the community. And my role with the (Cedar Rapids Metro) Economic Alliance may be more vital than ever supporting the business community, especially the small-businesses devastated by this” pandemic.

In early spring 2018, Corbett suffered what he described as an “embarrassing and disappointing” setback when he fell eight signatures shy of appearing on the ballot in his 2018 Republican primary challenge of Gov. Kim Reynolds. He lost an appeal and was forced to pivot, landing as business retention and expansion strategist at the Economic Alliance.

“It knocked me back a step or two, but like anyone, I got back on my feet,” Corbett said.

He was left with a few options of what to do with the approximately $300,000 remaining of the $1 million he had raised. His choices were to donate the money to the political party or to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, or return it to donors.

For the past two years, Corbett has been contacting donors offering refunds of 30 cents on the dollar of their contribution. Some have taken him up on it, and others told him to keep it.

“Sometimes I wrote checks for $3 and sometimes for $30,” he said.

Other amounts were much greater. He estimated he’s written hundreds of refund checks.

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On Sunday, Corbett ended the process when he dropped off a final check for $25,000 to NewBoCo, a Cedar Rapids not-for-profit and technology-oriented start-up collaborative. NewBoCo recently turned its focus to responding to the urgent calls for face shields, establishing a number of partnerships to use 3D printers to make the masks.

He had been raising money to support the effort.

NewBoCo Executive Director Eric Engelmann described Corbett’s contribution as “generous and thoughtful.”

“We just took an order for another 700 units, so we have a ton of work today,” Engelmann said. “It will help us to make the numbers work and cover the units.”

Corbett had closed out his mayoral campaign fund in January 2018, according to state filings, after deciding not to seek a third term. The largest closeout was transferring $41,951.83 to the Corbett for Governor fund on Aug. 24, 2017.

Corbett also had launched a conservative think tank called Engage Iowa in 2015, through which he traveled the state in attempt to shape public policy the organization researched. Many viewed the organization as a mechanism to raise his profile in the lead-up to his gubernatorial run.

Engage Iowa remains active and in January and February posted for the first time in more than a year to discuss Reynolds’ “Invest in Iowa” proposal, which would reduce income tax rates while boosting funding for mental health and environment.

According to the 990 tax form filed last fall for the 2018 calendar year, Engage Iowa ended the year with a fund balance of $103,165.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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