Iowans question Hillary Clinton, media entourage questions us

Kevin Rutledge on April 17, 2015

We tried to ask Hillary Clinton a follow up question on immigrant detention bed mandates during her first trip to Iowa.  Instead, state, national and international reporters following presidential candidates found us. 



The past week has been extremely eventful in Iowa, as we’ve bird-dogged Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Martin O’Malley—and we tried to ask Hillary Clinton a follow-up question Wednesday.

With so many reporters from across the country (and world) following presidential candidates over the next year across Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s hard not to bump into a reporter who’s interested in “Governing Under the Influence.”  We are seizing these opportunities to expose corporate domination in our political system.

On Wednesday, April 15, four of us squeezed into my small Toyota Corolla with two GUI banners to make the short drive to see Hillary Clinton in Norwalk, Iowa and ask her a follow-up question from October on a federal mandate requiring the detention of 34,000 immigrants every day.

Four different media organizations approached us: KCCI-TV (a local CBS affiliate), Newsday, Expressen (a Swedish newspaper), and a freelance journalist who quoted us in The National Forum and AlterNet.

Last week in Iowa City I questioned Rand Paul's $190 billion Pentagon budget increase and later was interviewed by MSNBC about Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcement.  NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported the story in this video (I’m at 56 second mark) on NBC Nightly News, Morning Joe, and The Today Show.

While Hillary was campaigning for Bruce Braley for Iowa Senate last year, a Scattergood student questioned Hillary Clinton on video, asking her as president, what would she do to stop private prisons from wasting taxpayer dollars on the 34,000 detention bed mandate.  Clinton was shocked by the question and responded “I’ll look into that question; nobody’s ever asked me that before.”

After watching the video with dozens of reporters chasing Hillary’s “Scooby Doo” van in her first Iowa appearance Tuesday, and learning she was going to meet with only six small business owners, I was confident that our giant GUI banners flapping in the wind would attract lingering reporters from across the country who couldn’t gain access inside.

As soon as we arrived, we were interviewed by KCCI news, asking us questions about Hillary Clinton and what we thought of so many national reporters being around Iowa tracking presidential candidates; we made the evening news.  More reporters started coming up and asking us questions after we set up our banners across the street from Capital City Fruit, where Clinton was scheduled to speak.

American Friends Service Committee was the only organization outside of the event.  Our GUI banners expose corporate domination from Pentagon contractors and for-profit prisons.

Among our volunteers was Linda Garrison, former AFSC Board member and former co-clerk of the AFSC Midwest Regional Executive Committee.  We were interviewed by AFSC staff Jon Krieg upon arriving back to the office in an audio recording attached.

“Hillary is not a target at all, but she is one of many candidates who need to answer questions,” Linda said during the debriefing.  When asked what AFSC staff Josh and Kevin were like, Linda said, “They were great fun. Josh decided to lead us in a few songs, but he didn’t know the words.”

Erika McCroskey was the other volunteer with us that day.  Erika is the Director of the grassroots peace organization Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines.

“We should be thinking critically to end our permanent war economy,” says Erika, an avid GUI volunteer and ally.  She promotes awareness and visibility to Pentagon spending through street theater and other creative venues to get the message out for the 2016 elections. 

Outside of the Iowa Freedom Summit where 9 Republican presidential hopefuls spoke to 1,500 attending, Erika dressed as a Senator with money and corporate logos (including Lockheed Martin and Boeing) pinned to her suit like NASCAR sponsors.  At our GUI kickoff event with keynote John Nichols from The Nation, she organized an “Elephant in the room: The Pentagon budget” skit during lunch where other GUI volunteers dressed up in an elephant’s costume with the $554,200,000,000 Pentagon budget sign attached.

Although we didn’t have the opportunity to have a conversation with a presidential candidate about the immigrant detention bed mandate that day, it was another successful day in spreading our message across the country: Iowans care about too much corporate influence in politics and we want our voices heard.

There are other ways to have our voices heard, too.  A few hours later, we participated in a Tax Day Protest in downtown Des Moines with many other organizations.  The theme was: “Paying our share, calling on mega-corporations to do the same.”  Pictures from rally are here.


Kevin Rutledge

Kevin Rutledge AFSC Governing Under the Influence Presidential Campaign Project

Kevin Rutledge is the Grassroots Education Coordinator with AFSC’s Presidential Campaign Project in Iowa.  Kevin has deep family roots in Quaker activism for peace and social justice.  A graduate from Iowa State University in Sociology and Criminal Justice, his previous work includes: United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) organizer, Public Citizen online organizer to overturn Citizens United, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, and a youth residential treatment facility.  Kevin hopes to one day return to Brazil and live by the beach.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill .