WATERLOO | Inconsistent is how Democrat Patty Judge describes Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst’s stance on the federal renewable fuel standard.
Ernst, a state senator from Red Oak, sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday asking that the administrator not enact plans to scale back increases in renewable fuels volumes.
But Ernst has also said in her primary campaign that she is “philosophically opposed” to the renewable fuel subsidies and plans to attend a Washington, D.C., fundraiser with groups affiliated with the oil industry.
“She’s been kind of inconsistent,” said Judge, a past Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, during a press conference put on by Democratic opponent Bruce Braley’s campaign. “I’ve been around a while and they don’t have fundraisers for people that are not philosophically aligned with them or that they do not feel with uphold their interests. I think that is very concerning.”
Ernst’s fundraisers will be sponsored by the political action committees for the American Petroleum Institute and Exxon Mobil, among others. Judge also noted that Ernst has the support of the politically active oil industrialists Charles and David Koch.
The Ernst campaign doesn’t dispute that she is “philosophically opposed” opposed to subsidies for renewable fuels but Ernst has said she will continue to support the RFS until all federal mandates and subsidies are eliminated.
“I understand that we are an ag economy here in Iowa and until we eliminate those subsidies across the board -- every sector and at the same time -- I’m going to continue to support the RFS,” Ernst says.
Bruce Rohwer, a farmer in Paullina, also spoke on the Braley for Iowa conference call in support of Braley’s stance on the renewable fuel standard and alternative energies in general.
“This is a stark contrast with Bruce Braley whom Iowa knows they can trust to support the RFS,” Rohwer said. “Bruce works across the aisle, as well, on the RFS and that shows that he puts Iowa first.”
Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, points to candidate surveys on the Iowa RFA website that shows little difference of opinion between Braley and Ernst on issues important to the industry.
Noting that the Iowa RFA has not taken a stance in the Senate race, Shaw said Ernst, operating in the Iowa Senate, and Braley, acting in the U.S. House, both have good records with the organization.
“From our perspective, she (Ernst) has voted with the renewable fuels industry each time there was a key vote that we targeted, as a state senator” said Shaw, who also unsuccessfully ran for Shaw the Republican nomination for the 3rd District congressional seat this year.
One of those votes was on a resolution co-sponsored by Ernst that urged the federal government to support a “robust and sustainable renewable fuel standard.”
Shaw added, however, “Bruce Braley, likewise, has a 100 percent voting record with us, albeit in a different form ... in Congress, and he’s been a true leader on these issues.”
Shaw also noted that about 10,000 Iowa households are invested in or directly employed by the renewable fuels industry and at least that many more in jobs indirectly associated with the industry.
The Americans United for Change, a national progressive group, began airing radio advertisements this week raising questions about Ernst’s fundraisers. Upon seeing Ernst’s letter to the EPA administrator, spokesman Jeremy Funk called it a “PR stunt” that “reeks of desperation and rings hollow.”
Ernst notes in her statement, however, that she has consistently supported the RFS.
“As a rural candidate, the members of Iowa’s agricultural community are more to me than just a significant part of our state’s economy -- they are also my neighbors, friends and family. Iowans must not bear the burden of an EPA-driven shift in policy. I have supported renewable fuels in the Iowa Senate, and I will continue to passionately defend the RFS in the U.S. Senate,” Ernst said.
Courier Des Moines Bureau reporter James Lynch contributed to this report.
Correction added: 07/30/14