Senate contender Theresa Greenfield is out with a new ad featuring the praise of a local "small business owner" who is in reality a longtime Democratic activist and former elected official.
In the ad, former Des Moines City Council member and Democratic donor Loretta Sieman calls criticism of Greenfield's business record "flat-out false."
Greenfield has come under fire for her work as a real estate executive, which included evicting local businesses from an Iowa shopping center in a failed attempt to make way for a multinational corporation. In March, she quietly deleted all mentions of her former real estate companies from her campaign site.
Sieman, who runs a Des Moines-based nonprofit consulting firm, served 17 years on the West Des Moines City Council. She has repeatedly identified herself as a liberal—in a September 2019 interview with liberal blog Bleeding Heartland, Sieman said she was "born a Democrat." Iowa Democratic congresswoman Cindy Axne also touted Sieman's endorsement on a 2018 list of notable supporters.
Campaign finance disclosures show that Sieman has contributed thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and liberal causes over the last 16 years. She has given exclusively to Democrats at the federal level, including $750 to former Iowa Democratic Senate nominee Roxanne Conlin in 2010. At the state level, nearly 80 percent of Sieman's donations—more than $2,650—have gone to Democrats. Recipients include failed gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, who received $1,000 from Sieman, as well as the Iowa Democratic Party. Sieman, who spent two years as a Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa board member, has also contributed nearly $1,000 to the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC.
Greenfield's business record has become a flashpoint in her race against Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), with Republicans alleging that she failed everyday Iowa workers during her 20 years in real estate. Greenfield responded to the criticism in a June press release that quoted a donor to her campaign and the former head of a real estate trade group, Michele Stevens, who said that Greenfield "can be trusted to do what's best for our small businesses." Stevens contributed $2,000 to Greenfield's Senate campaign and over $1,000 to her failed 2018 congressional bid.
Local business leaders have repeatedly criticized the eviction project she led, which they said "blindsided" tenants and forced out at least five small businesses.
"How can small business owners trust that, given your record of favoring a multinational corporation over Iowa small businesses, you would prioritize our needs as a U.S. Senator?" a June letter signed by nearly a dozen Iowa entrepreneurs reads.
Just days later, Iowa small business owners gathered at the shopping center cleared out by Greenfield, highlighting her "concerning" business record.
"We need someone in Washington who is going to be loyal and committed," Jacob Handsaker of Hands On Excavating LLC said at the press conference. "I'm concerned that small business owners will be tossed to the side when the next big dollar sign comes in."
Neither Greenfield nor Sieman responded to requests for comment.