WATERLOO - A state GOP leader believes the charges against embattled Rep. Kerry Burt and his subsequent decision not to run for re-election came too conveniently after the recently concluded 2010 legislative session.
On Thursday, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn demanded answers from Black Hawk County prosecutors, Attorney General Tom Miller and House Democrat leaders.
Burt, D-Waterloo, was charged Wednesday with two counts of tampering with records in an investigation into Malcolm Price Laboratory School in Cedar Falls. Authorities allege he gained educational benefits while avoiding paying higher tuition.
Burt allegedly told an agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation he used an inaccurate Cedar Falls address to gain residential status for his children at the school, and that school officials were aware of his actual address.
Strawn had called for Burt to resign when the Price Lab scandal first surfaced last year.
"There is no question, Democrat leaders in Des Moines circled their wagons around Kerry Burt," Strawn said.
According to Strawn, House Speaker Pat Murphy previously said he was "with Burt 100 percent."
"Evidently a corrupt Democrat vote for their agenda is better than no vote at all for majority Democrats," said Strawn. "Whether it was for their failed big labor agenda, continued overspending or generational debt on Iowans, Democrat leaders needed Kerry Burt's vote time after time."
But Iowa Attorney General's offices spokesman Bob Brammer said that's not the case.
"We don't mix politics and our professional responsibilities as prosecutors," Brammer said. "This (filing) was determined by when we were prepared to file charges."
State Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls, noted that Scott Brown, a prosecutor in the Price Lab case, continues to handle the prosecution for the Mark Becker murder trial, which reached a verdict March 2.
Brown, the director of the area prosecutions division with the Iowa Attorney General's office, may not have had time to process the more recent case until now, Kressig said.
"It just doesn't seem that what Mr. Strawn is saying is holding up water," Kressig said. "It just seems like it's full of holes."
Strawn was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, but his communications director, Danielle Plogmann, believes the delay still needs explanation.
"Why are the legislators explaining something that seems like the prosecutor and Attorney General Miller's office should be explaining?" she asked.
"Regardless of the timing, the allegations against Kerry Burt have not changed since (the audit) came out last summer," she added. "The fact still remains at how Speaker Murphy and (House) Majority Leader (Kevin) McCarthy let a corrupt lawmaker stay in office all session."
State Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, isn't surprised that his Republican counterparts are raising an issue.
"That's essentially a red herring," he said. "It seems a little opportunistic from my perspective. While I understand that that's politics, I think that those accusations are unfounded."
Danielson called Miller "one of the most well-respected attorney generals in the country."
"He has a due diligence process that he has to follow," Danielson said. "This has been an ongoing investigation, and I think he's done an admirable job of dealing with the substance of what's gone on here as well as understanding that there's always an element of politics involved."
Ali Glilsson, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, said Friday afternoon: "These attacks from the Republican Party of Iowa are reckless and irresponsible. What's worst about these baseless allegations is that they implicate the prosecutors and the Attorney General. Their duty is not to the politicans or to play politics, but simply to uphold the law."
Accusing the other side seems to be the nature of politics, said Don Wood, chairman on the Republicans of Black Hawk County.
"I certainly don't know anything about the timing or the motives there, but obviously, regardless of party affiliation, you always are suspicious of the other party," Wood said.
State Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, can't see any political advantages in the timing of the charges. Releasing the charges earlier could have possibly benefited his party.
Burt dropping out of the election before his announcement Wednesday would have allowed an opportunity for other candidates to come forward, Dotzler said.
"(Strawn) has a right to say what he wants about it," Dotzler said.