Reynolds’ campaign declines to release more info on schedule

The gubernatorial campaign for Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is declining to provide more information about blocks of time in her day-to-day calendar that she used to work on campaign-related events, arguing that releasing the information could give away strategy.

Phil Valenziano, Reynolds’ campaign manager, offered that explanation in response to questions about 10 items listed on Reynolds’ June calendar — her first full month in office — that reference the campaign but are blacked out.

Reynolds’ administrative staff provided her calendar in response to a public records request by The Associated Press but cited privacy exemptions in Iowa law for redacting more information about the items. Her office made the same redactions for six campaign-related items in acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg’s June work calendar. Some of those items match up in both Reynolds’ and Gregg’s calendars, indicating they may have attended events together.

Valenziano said the items were a combination of political events, fundraisers, meetings and phone calls. But he would not specify which item fell under what type of event.

“This level of detail I’ve provided you regarding how the political time is allocated exceeds what has been discussed publicly in past campaigns,” he wrote in an email. “No campaign would ever detail exactly how much time is allocated to each activity, as it could possibly give away strategy.”

The redacted records still offer a glimpse at how Reynolds, a Republican, is trying to balance her new job as governor with her efforts to win a full four-year term in the 2018 gubernatorial race. Hours before a two-hour slot for a campaign-related item on the afternoon of June 1, Reynolds met with the head of Iowa’s largest public pension system. She had a similar two-hour block set aside the next day at 10:30 a.m., hours before the Republican Party of Iowa hosted an informal inaugural event for her. On June 26, she met with reporters, had a briefing about a While House event and attended a groundbreaking before a half hour campaign-related block in the afternoon. She had a separate campaign-related item later that evening.

The campaign-related time blocks, ranging from a half hour to two hours, were scheduled both on weeknights and during regular work hours, though no Iowa law dictates when a governor works. Iowa law prohibits someone from using public resources for political purposes. Her calendar showed travel time around the campaign-related items, indicating she was away from the Capitol.

On June 13, Reynolds attended a campaign-related event during the same time that her campaign, the Kim Reynolds for Iowa Committee, paid for a private fundraiser at the central Iowa home of Chuck Larson, a lobbyist and former state lawmaker, according to an event invitation obtained by AP.

Colin Smith, Reynolds’ legal counsel, wrote in an email the redactions protect details like home addresses.

“Our office does not redact something simply because it may be ‘personal’ or ‘campaign’ related. Each redaction must be judged on its own merits with consideration of the circumstances and its content in light of Iowa law,” he said.

Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said he finds it hard to believe that releasing basic information about the time blocks would reveal strategy, because every other gubernatorial candidate is already engaging in the same activities. He encouraged Reynolds, as the head of state government, to be more transparent even if the law doesn’t require it.

“Trying to keep it secret only invites some people to think the worst,” he said. “There’s everything to be gained by being more transparent with the public and I don’t think you build trust and confidence among constituents by claiming confidentiality for some pretty innocuous details such as, ‘It was a meeting with campaign aides. It was fundraising calls. It was travel to a campaign event.’ I don’t see that that is going to jeopardize the campaign in anyway.”

Reynolds was sworn in after her predecessor, former Gov. Terry Branstad, stepped down in May to become U.S. ambassador to China. She faces a primary challenge from Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, and at least a half dozen Democrats are competing their party’s nomination.

Reynolds has raised more than $1 million for her campaign, according to filings released in January. Her campaign declined to release fundraising details from the June 13 event, noting it’s not legally required to do so until early next year. Other gubernatorial campaigns, both Democratic and Republican, have also held off on releasing fundraising details until the filing deadline.