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As David Corn at Mother Jones recently wrote, "The current presidential contest promises to be more cacophonous and mud strewn than any in recent history, with a record number of down-and-dirty ads financed on the sly by big-money interests." But the big money and dirty tricks aren't confined to presidential politics this year.

American Future Fund (AFF) is running ads in support of Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota) while Iowa Future Fund (IFF)is running ads against Governor Chet Culver (D-Iowa) and there has been speculation in the media as to who is behind AFF and IFF. The other day, Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker posted about it as have the Des Moines Register and Minnesota Public Radio, among others.

Last week, Minnesota Democrats filed an FEC complaint against American Future Fund.

I reviewed AFF and IFF documents filed with the Iowa Secretary of State on 8/7/07 and the incorporator is Jessica Young at 98 Alexandria Pike, Ste 53, in Warrenton, VA. That is the address of Holtzman Vogel, a law firm owned by two very influential and well-known Republican operatives, Alex N. Vogel and his wife, Jill Holtzman Vogel. and were both registered privately on 10/19/07 and the youtube accounts were opened on 2/25/08 and 2/26/08.

Although AFF and IFF were registered as non-profits in Iowa and have been referred to as 501(c)(4)s, neither corporation is listed in the IRS non-profit database. As 501(c)(4)s, AFF and IFF would not be required to disclose donor names and would only file annual 990s with the IRS.

On 2/7/08, an Eric Peterson filed a fictitious name resolution in order for Iowa Future Fund to do business as "IFF". Peterson listed himself as IFF president, secretary and director but no address or phone number was provided.

Jessica Young as IFF incorporator has the power to appoint directors so I assume she appointed Eric Peterson. But Young isn't talking. I called her at Holtzman Vogel and was referred instead to an attorney named Teresa who told me that it was the firm's policy to keep client matters confidential. When I pointed out that HV seemed to be the client, she refused to comment.

Alex and Jill Holtzman Vogel along with Mark "Thor" Hearne, were behind American Center For Voting Rights, another GOP front set up for the despicable purpose of disenfranchising poor and minority voters. After reviewing the 990s filed with the IRS by ACVR, I realized that the law firms and consultants were the big winners. Holtzman Vogel, Lathrop  Gage,  Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, Squire Sanders & Dempsey and Jim Dyke & Associates all took in big fat fees.

According to Stu Rothenberg at the Rothenberg Report, Republican operatives Ben Ginsberg and Edward T. Tobin III are also involved in IFF and AFF. Ginsberg, former counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign, is a partner in Patton Boggs's public policy and lobbying group. Tobin, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, is a partner in Wilmer Hale's fairly new Public Policy and Strategy Group.

David Kochel has acknowledged that he is an IFF advisor but refuses to say anything more. Kochel, a former Iowa Republican Party director, was most recently an advisor to the ill-fated Romney campaign and he advised Lamar Alexander in 2000. Kochel, along with Jennifer Dean, owns JDK Marketing and Public Affairs.

Who is Eric Peterson, Iowa Future Fund president, secretary and director? One guess is that he is Eric Peterson, Summit Farms business manager. A 2007 Iowa State U. grad, Peterson donated $2k to Rudy Giuliani in December as did other Summit Farms employees along with Peterson's employer, wealthy Iowan businessman, Bruce Rastetter.

Bruce Rastetter, a big Republican donor, owns Hawkeye Renewables which owns and operates four ethanol plants in Iowa. Last September, the Washington Post ran a story, "Corn Farms Prosper But Subsidies Still Flow" which mentioned Rastetter and his well-attended summer bash:

On a once quiet highway west of Iowa Falls, a constant stream of tractor-trailers pound the road, hauling corn to the Hawkeye Renewables ethanol refinery and soybeans to Cargill Inc.'s biodiesel plant.

To celebrate a banner year, Hawkeye founder and chief executive Bruce Rastetter pulled out the stops for his annual midsummer bash. Several hundred politicians, businessmen and farmers mingled at his richly landscaped hilltop estate, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) made his entrance in a wagon pulled by Rastetter's team of Percheron draft horses.

Rastetter himself is politically ambitious and considered running against Senator Tom Harkin this year.

Wanderindiana and I (actually mostly wanderindiana) came up with a list of donors who all contributed to Norm Coleman on 10/24/07. Bruce Rastetter contributed $2k as did his brother, Brent Rastetter and business partners J. D. Schlieman and Kent Krause. Robin Sampson and Todd Steen, Rastetter employees, also contributed to Coleman.

Iowan businessman, Roger Underwood and Iowa State Bank banker, Alan Rosendahl contributed to Coleman. So did Ken Mehlman, now at Akin Gump, and Ken's brother, Bruce Mehlman, at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti.

Senator Coleman is co-chair of the Senate Bio-Fuels Caucus, whose goal it is to promote and increase the use of biofuels in the U.S. The ethanol business is subsidized by the taxpayers to the tune of $3 billion annually and depends heavily on favorable government regulation.

Is Bruce Rastetter, a least in part, funding Iowa Future Fund and American Future Fund? It would certainly suit him politically to do so because he can keep the extent of his financial support of the Republican Party secret. Rastetter seems to be a practical guy in that he just made his first ever contribution to a Democrat, $25k to Gov. Culver. I doubt if Rastetter would want the governor to know he is funding ads criticizing him.

While the activities of American Future Fund and Iowa Future Fund have been limited to Iowa and Minnesota to date, there is every reason to think that AFF will expand its operations, given the big money names involved in it.

(Crossposted at TPM Cafe)

Update I:

Link to a Politico story published last year about the ethanol industry and the presidential candidates which features Bruce Rastetter.

Link to a video of Rastetter's House testimony posted on youtube.

Update II:

desmoinesdem at Bleeding Heartland asks Iowan Dems for help identifying Eric Peterson, president, secretary and director of Iowa Future Fund.

Thanks, desmoinesdem!

Update III:

I posted about another Holtzman Vogel 501(c)(4)scam, the Progressive Policy Council, here.

Update IV:

After re-reading the FEC complaint filed by Minnesota Dems, I noticed that Nicole Schlinger is listed as the American Future Fund president. Schlinger is also the president of Capitol Resources, Inc. also dba as Campaign Headquarters, located in Brooklyn Iowa. Capital Resources raises money for Republican candidates.

According to a LinkedIn profile, Schlinger was the finance director of the Iowa Republican Party and most recently worked for the Romney campaign which paid her approximately $200k.

The Syracuse alumni newsletter has an article about Schlinger with a photo of her with a young George W. Bush (see p.10).

American Future Fund doesn't sound vey much like a social welfare organization.

Update V:

The post office box listed in the FEC complaint (see above) against American Future Fund is the same one used by Iowan lobbyist, Nick Ryan. Ryan's sole client appears to have been Bruce Rastetter.

Ryan was Rep. Jim Nussle's long time campaign manager and he managed Nussle's failed gubernatorial campaign in 2006.

A few years ago, Nick Ryan donated to Jim Nussle and G W Bush as "Nick Ryan". Recently, he donated to Norm Coleman and Rudy Giuliani as "Nicholas Ryan". He also donated to Tom Latham as "Nicholas Ryan-Summit Capital Group executive". Summit Capital Group is one of Bruce Rastetter's companies.

Looks more and more likely that Eric Peterson, Summit Farms business manager, is Eric Peterson, Iowa Future Fund president. If that's the case, we know at least one major player in the ethanol industry is behind American Future Fund and Iowa Future Fund.

Update VI:

Cracking under the pressure applied by citizen92, wanderindiana and me, the Iowan Republicans have abandoned Iowa Future Fund and created the Iowa Progress Project. Republican operative, Dave Kochel, is the president.

From the 4/10/08 IPP press release:

President David Kochel said, "Iowa Progress Project is the direct result of the response thousands of Iowans have had to ads and issues highlighted by the Iowa Future Fund. While the Iowa Future Fund has been very effective at highlighting important issues in our state, what was also abundantly clear is that a grassroots-centered conservative issues organization is also needed in this state. IPP will provide citizens from all corners of Iowa a voice in their community and state."

Read more about Iowa Progress Project in my diary at Bleeding Heartland, an Iowan progressive blog.

Originally posted to Mrs Panstreppon on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:57 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hot Tips Jar (10+ / 0-)

    Let me know if you have any!

    "I feared the worst when I saw that butterscotch incident."

    by Mrs Panstreppon on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:01:56 PM PDT

  •  please contact me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wanderindiana, Mrs Panstreppon

    I'm in Iowa, I work in this field, and I'd like to her from you. Email is in my profile.

  •  Just Catching Up Now (0+ / 0-)

    HV didn't wait long to change to CT Registration!

  •  Nicole Schlinger's handiwork (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Church of the Intercession

    If you click on the link and view the larger image, you can read "Brooklyn, Iowa" on the namecard.

    Fascinating subject for a GOP operative...

    And as things fell apart
    Nobody paid much attention
    -- Talking Heads, (Nothing But) Flowers

    by wanderindiana on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:49:26 AM PDT

  •  American Future Fund website now open... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wanderindiana, citizen92

    for business:

    The AFF news page links to Chris Cillizza's WaPo blog, The Fix. In the comments, I posted links to this diary and wrote all about Rastetter, Ryan, Schlinger, etc.  

    "I feared the worst when I saw that butterscotch incident."

    by Mrs Panstreppon on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 08:01:02 PM PDT

    •  Premise (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wanderindiana, Mrs Panstreppon


      American Future Fund, a 501(c)(4) formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint to have a mechanism to communicate and advocate on the issues that most interest and concern them.



      American Future Fund is a vehicle designed by Holtzman-Vogel's political practice to enable the BioFuels industry a way to clandestinely fund Senate and Congressional candidates they favor through clandestine means.

  •  Laura Rozen on Freedom's Watch & Sheldon Adelson (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wanderindiana, citizen92

    Laura Rozen of War and Piece has a terrific story in Mother Jones about Freedom's Watch and Sheldon Adelson.

    Freedom's Watch declines to reveal all the projects it supports. An official there indicated the group has "partnered" with other organizations such as pro-war blog Blackfive and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies on individual projects. "FDD and Freedom's Watch have worked cooperatively on such issues as [supporting] the Petraeus mission (along with many other pro-Petraeus groups)," says Foundation for the Defense of Democracies president Clifford May, a former Republican National Committee spokesman and onetime New York Times journalist. According to a Washington think-tank official, FDD applied for a $3 million grant from Adelson or Freedom's Watch to support its Iran projects. Asked about this, May said, "I go to many philanthropists and foundations to try to get the resources we need to do the work we think is important."

    Beyond Freedom's Watch, Adelson has been financing other conservative and philanthropic activity. In 2006, his private Adelson Family Foundation pledged to donate $200 million of his estimated $28 billion fortune annually. According to the National Journal, Adelson recently contributed $2 million to Defense of Democracies, an FDD-linked group, which funded an ad blitz blasting domestic surveillance legislation backed by House Democrats. (The bill omitted a White House demand for retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that handed over customer data to the government without warrants.) In 2006, Adelson provided $1 million to American Solutions for Winning the Future, a political group formed by former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In April 2007, the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, headed by former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, announced that it had received a $4.5 million gift from Adelson's foundation . The 74-year-old Adelson and his wife contributed more than a million dollars to mostly Republican politicians and PACs between 1993 and 2007.

    "I feared the worst when I saw that butterscotch incident."

    by Mrs Panstreppon on Thu Apr 10, 2008 at 11:58:05 AM PDT

  •  I googled "nick ryan rastetter" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wanderindiana, citizen92

    Nick or Nicholas Ryan was listed as the Rastetter Foundation's media rep last September.

    Ryan was also listed as Hawkeye Renewables public relations officer. This press release announced that Marty Lyons, formerly of Archer Daniel Midlands, was joining Hawkeye.

    "I feared the worst when I saw that butterscotch incident."

    by Mrs Panstreppon on Thu Apr 10, 2008 at 07:38:15 PM PDT

    •  Nick is a busy boy... (0+ / 0-)

      This document from the City of Des Moines is a recommendation from City Council Member Brian Meyer to appoint Nicholas Ryan to the Urban Design Review Board.

      Page 2 of the form is a sort of job application.  In it, Nick lists his occupation as Managing Director, Summit Capital Group, having started 01/2007.

      Nick lists three telephone numbers:
      Home (515) 255-4750
      Work (515) 283-3000 [same as the press release listing him with the Foundation]
      Fax (515) 282-3003

      Nick notes in the "other life skills" section:

      My work focuses on private equity investments in both real estate and alternative energy assets.  Graduate of the University of Iowa (BA) and Drake University Law School (JD).

      Also on page 2, Nick is apparently using an "" email address (

      A quick look at reveals the following single webpage with no links:

      AltEnergy, LLC
      AltEnergy, LLC, based in Rowayton Connecticut, focuses on companies and projects operating in the alternative energy industry.

      The principals of AltEnergy have been active participants in the alternative energy industry for over 20 years with experience covering all aspects of alternative energy, including Wind, Photovoltaics, Ethanol, Landfill Gas and Geothermal investments.

      We actively work with management teams, companies and projects to supply the necessary equity or to obtain the necessary debt financing.

      What the heck is it with these Republican lawyers doing all of this clandestime political work?  Thor, Ginsburg, Holtzman-Vogel, Mehlman.  This is quite the cottage industry!

      •  Alt Energy LLC owns an airplane (0+ / 0-)

        According to Flight Aware, Altenergy LLC owns an airplane.  It flew from Teterboro, NJ to Long Island/Republic on Sunday, April 6.

        The FAA registration # is N279AK.  It's a Beechcraft Beechjet.

        I wonder who Altenergy LLC is flying around on that jet?  Any politicians, maybe?

        N279AK (details)
        Aircraft   Beechcraft Beechjet (twin-jet) (BE40/Q)
        Origin   Teterboro (KTEB)
        Destination   Republic (KFRG)
           Other flights between these airports
        Route  BDR248 CCC285 CCC DPK
        Date   Sunday, Apr 06, 2008
        Duration   22 minutes
        Status Arrived 4 days ago (track log)
         Scheduled Actual/Estimated
        Departure 06:50PM EDT 07:08PM EDT
        Arrival 07:19PM EDT 07:30PM EDT
        Speed 258 kts  
        Altitude 3000 feet

        •  Here's the FAA registration record for 279AK (0+ / 0-)

          FAA Registry
          N-Number Inquiry Results


          N279AK is Assigned

          Aircraft Description

          Serial Number    RK-419              Type Registration    Corporation
          Manufacturer Name  RAYTHEON AIRCRAFT COMPANY   Certificate Issue Date  02/22/2007  
          Model  400A   Status  Valid  
          Type Aircraft  Fixed Wing Multi-Engine  Type Engine  Turbo-Fan  
          Pending Number Change  None   Dealer  No  
          Date Change Authorized  None   Mode S Code  50543765  
          MFR Year  None   Fractional Owner  NO  


          Registered Owner

          Name     ALTENERGY LLC  
          Street  137 ROWAYTON AVE  
          City  NORWALK  State CONNECTICUT    Zip Code     06853-1413  
          County  FAIRFIELD  
          Country  UNITED STATES  

          •  Hmm (0+ / 0-)

            Admittedly this one is probably a stretch, but the 137 Rowayton Ave address tracks back to an organization called Interactive Capital Partners.  ICP at one time owned or had investments in "Election Services Corp."

            137 Rowayton is a ritzy office building for Norwalk.  It just sold, according to this article.  But no mention of Altenergy LLC as a tenant.

            The article also says that Interactive moved when the building sold.

          •  AltEnergy's CT State Business Record (0+ / 0-)

            Here's AltEnergy's Connecticut State business registration:


            Business Name: Business ID: Business Address:
            ALTENERGY, LLC 0881845 50 WASHINGTON ST, STE 720, NORWALK, CT, 06854  
            Mailing Address: Citizenship/State Inc: Last Report Year:
            NONE  Domestic/CT  
            Business Type: Business Status: Date Inc./Register:
            Domestic Limited Liability Company Active Dec 12, 2006

            Name/Title: Business Address: Residence Address:

            Agent Name: Agent Business Address: Agent Residence Address:

            In this record, AltEnergy's business address is different from the FAA record.

            Also different is Stidolph's residence address.

      •  Altenergy LLC Donations (0+ / 0-)

        Altenergy Executive Russel Stidolph seems to be a willing donor.

        Russek Stidolph
        1 Covewood Drive
        Rowayton, CT

        From the FEC:

        ROWAYTON, CT 06853

        02/19/2008 -1000.00 28930817430

        ROWAYTON, CT 06853

        11/02/2007 1000.00 28990207821
        12/31/2007 2300.00 28990207821
        02/04/2008 -1000.00 28930816626
        02/04/2008 1000.00 28930816627

        Mr. Stidolph seems to be having trouble keeping track of what he's giving...  Looks like the Giuliani campaign has had to refund him twice for his over-generosity.

        But why give more $$ in Feb 2008, after Rudy dropped out of the race?  Oh, and he appears never to have given to a federal candidate ever before, at least according to the FEC.

        That reminds me, Nick Ryan was also a Giuliani supporter.  Oddly enough he too gave to Rudy, the same amount and on the same day that Stidolph did:

        DES MOINES, IA 50310

        12/31/2007 2300.00 28990207445

        And, even more oddly, Nick Ryan's wife, Kelly Ryan, somehow managed to give to Giuliani the same amount, and on the same day:

        RYAN, KELLY M. MRS.
        DES MOINES, IA 50310

        12/31/2007 2300.00 28990207444

        Kelly's only other contribution to any politician was Jim Nussle for $250.  And Kelly is a State of Iowa Legislative Research Analyst I (page 5) on the State payscale.  In 2007, she was making $50k.  Either she got a big raise, or she REALLY loves Rudy.  Or Nick is rolling in the dough.

        Three contributions of the same amount on the same day to the same campaign?

        One from a guy who's never given, but just can't seem to stop giving to Rudy?

        And two from a 30 year old guy and his state employed wife?

        Something isn't right here....  Do we have some straw donors going on?

        •  Here's where Connecticut meets Iowa (0+ / 0-)

          Midwest Renewables Considers Wind Farm Development in IA
          Renewable Energy Today,  Dec 18, 2003  

          Link Alden, IA-based Midwest Renewables recently announced it is exploring the development of a new $200-million wind farm near Iowa Falls with the assistance of Stamford, CT-based investment firm Whitney & Company.

          According to Whitney & Company vice president Russ Stidolph, the project could potentially feature up to 135 turbines, helping generate 200 megawatts (MW) of power.

  •  I emailed Eric Peterson again at Summit Farms (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wanderindiana, citizen92

    today and asked him if he was Eric Peterson, Iowa Future Fund president. This time I included a link to my TPM Cafe IFF/AFF post. No reply so far. Not that I expected one.

    Maybe it is a coincidence but now the TPM Cafe post does not show up in a Google search. It was #1. Yahoo and AlltheWeb, yes. MSN, no.

    The post first disappeared from Google last Monday but then it returned after a day or so. Maybe that's what will happen this time.

    "I feared the worst when I saw that butterscotch incident."

    by Mrs Panstreppon on Thu Apr 10, 2008 at 08:52:12 PM PDT

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