Dems Turn to Craigslist to Find Veteran Supporters in Iowa

Braley supporters turn to classifieds website after criticism of military record

Bruce Braley
Bruce Braley / AP

Allies of Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) are now turning to Craigslist to enlist the support of veterans amid a torrent of criticism from Republicans over the Senate candidate’s record on the military.

Ads posted in the last few days on the local classifieds website Craigslist say "voter outreach jobs" are available for veterans and family members of veterans "to help Bruce Braley." One job posting in Davenport, Iowa, says it pays $11 to $13 per hour and encourages interested parties to apply with Grassroots Campaigns, an independent consulting firm that assists progressive groups with field operations.

The GOP has blasted Braley for his lack of support for troops and veterans, including several absences at full Veterans’ Affairs (VA) committee hearings and his vote against a pay raise for soldiers in a 2012 spending bill.

"Brucey [sic] Braley has been a strong advocate for issues that are important to veterans and their families, and we want to make sure that veterans' support for Bruce Braley comes through loud and clear in the 2014 Election," the Craigslist ad says.

Bruce Lainhart, assistant director for Grassroots at the Davenport office, said in an interview that the voter outreach efforts are not affiliated with the Braley campaign but "we do support him."

Lainhart said Grassroots is working in coordination with VoteVets, a group that works with "progressive allies representing labor, immigration, gay and lesbian rights, and environmentalists, when their issues coincide with the needs of troops and veterans," according to its website.

The VoteVets Action Fund financed a $250,000 ad buy last month in support of Braley. The ad featured a Vietnam veteran from Des Moines who praised the congressman for supporting Social Security and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The Braley campaign declined to comment on the Craigslist ads for veterans.

Lainhart said Braley’s support for renewable energy is a key factor behind his backing from progressive groups.

"We just believe his overall foreign policies and energy policies are better for Iowans," he said.

Environmentalists have repeatedly portrayed Braley as a better advocate for Iowa farmers who rely on the corn-based ethanol mandate in the RSF. However, his Republican opponent Joni Ernst also says she supports the standard.

Additionally, Republicans say Braley has supported environmental measures that put him at odds with Iowa farmers—including an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on pesticides that could "threaten the very livelihood of farmers and rural communities," according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa).

Braley’s poll numbers dropped earlier this year after he called Grassley a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" at a fundraiser, comments that many viewed as elitist in the farmer-heavy state.

Responses to Braley’s record on the military have also been negative. Letters to the editor in local media have mocked Braley for missing for than three-fourths of full VA hearings as details of long wait times and falsified patient records at medical centers began to emerge.

Braley’s campaign initially said he skipped one VA hearing in Sept. 2012 to attend another one held by the House Oversight Committee. However, he did not appear on a video of the hearing. The congressman also attended three fundraisers that day, though he did show up at a subcommittee hearing on economic opportunities for veterans.

Braley also voted against a pay raise for troops that was part of the 2012 defense spending bill because "we have accomplished the objectives of our mission in Afghanistan," he said in a statement at the time.

"During the same time period that he skipped 75 percent of the Veterans’ Affairs hearings, Washington liberal Bruce Braley voted against giving our brave men and women a pay increase," said Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann in a previous statement. "While [Iowa Congressmen] Dave Loebsack, Steve King and Tom Latham voted to give our troops a pay increase, Bruce Braley voted against this bipartisan bill and it’s why we can’t depend on him to standup for our active and retired members of the armed forces."

Braley and Ernst are currently in a dead heat in the Iowa Senate race, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average. The contest could be crucial to Republicans’ efforts to retake the Senate majority this fall.