Government

Iowa GOP: Hubbell cares more for himself than employees, Iowans

Hubbell campaign: Gross distortion shows Republicans are 'desperate'

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann speaks during a press conference Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at the Linn County GOP headquarters in Cedar Rapids. Kaufmann criticized Fred Hubbell, the Democratic candidate for governor, for his record as the owner of Younkers. The Hubbell campaign responded that the attack was “desperate.” (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann speaks during a press conference Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at the Linn County GOP headquarters in Cedar Rapids. Kaufmann criticized Fred Hubbell, the Democratic candidate for governor, for his record as the owner of Younkers. The Hubbell campaign responded that the attack was “desperate.” (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Republicans are keeping up their attack on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell for what they call his “consistent record of bettering himself while leaving Iowans behind.”

The Republican Party of Iowa brought its “Fired by Fred” campaign to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, with party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann hammering the former department store executive for putting profits and his own compensation ahead of employees of the Hubbell-owned Younkers stores in the 1980s and 1990s.

The party has mounted a FiredByFred.com campaign tied to decisions they attribute to Hubbell to close some stores in the Younkers chain, lay off employees and cut wages and benefits.

Hubbell’s record, Kaufmann said, is one of “putting profits over people before selling off the company to get a good deal for himself.”

Hubbell, he charged, shrank wages and benefits while increasing his compensation by 61 percent and shifted $60 million of revenue from Younkers to Equitable Life and Casualty, also owned by the Hubbell family.

At the time, Younkers said the stores were not losing money but “drained too much corporate overhead.”

“Of course, some of that overhead was his salary,” Kaufmann said.

Hubbell and his campaign have been dismissive of the ad and its attack line, saying that rather than focusing on decisions made 30 years ago, the campaign should be about tomorrow.

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“We’re talking about the future. Today’s what’s important,” Hubbell told reporters recently.

Hubbell said the decision to close the Ottumwa store was announced in 1984 before he joined Younkers. Two other stores were closed after he had taken on responsibilities for Equitable and was no longer involved in Younkers’ day-to-day operations.

Following the GOP news conference, the Hubbell campaign called the attacks “desperate.”

“While Fred Hubbell’s record is one of creating jobs across Iowa and personally paying to add mental health treatment beds when the state slashed funding, Kim Reynolds’ record is rich with closing mental health institutes, laying off over 2,100 Iowans, and shuttering 36 workforce centers across rural Iowa,” Hubbell spokeswoman Remi Yamamoto said.

“These desperate attacks by Republicans and Gov. Reynolds highlight just how vulnerable and desperate they are without a positive record to run on and a lackluster general election start. They have to resort to grossly distorting information against Fred Hubbell from over 30 years ago.”

Kaufmann defended the line of attack, saying it illustrates Hubbell having a dismissive attitude about the impact on those employees and communities affected by pay cuts and store closings.

Younkers’ executives called it “not something of real significance” when the company laid off 40 workers in 1990.

And when store employees’ pay was cut, Hubbell said, the loss of “two hours out of 36 or 38 hours is not much. I think they should be happy they still have jobs.” They also lost health care benefits as well as full-time status, Kaufmann said.

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When it comes to “standing up for the little guy, I’m putting my money on Kim Reynolds. She’s been there and done that,” Kaufmann said. “If they should be happy to have a job, that’s what Fred Hubbell’s background tells him to say. I guarantee you Kim Reynolds is thinking back to the time ... she was that employee.”

He also questioned Hubbell’s vision for Iowa, predicting a shift from a thriving economy and balanced state budget to the situation that existed under the last Democratic governor, Chet Culver, which led to a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut.

“At least, Chet Culver did it because he was unprepared,” Kaufmann said. “I think Fred Hubbell is going to do it because it was planned out, just like shifting $60 million was planned out.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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