Regent Bruce Rastetter Files Amended Financial Disclosure Statement with State Ethics Board
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Board of Regents member Bruce Rastetter has filed an amended financial disclosure statement with the state ethics board just days before the board considers whether he violated ethics rules.
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is scheduled to meet Thursday to review a complaint filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an environmental and government watchdog group.
The complaint alleges Rastetter misrepresented himself on financial disclosure forms as a self-employed family farmer when in fact he owns numerous investments and gets significant income from executive positions at corporations he oversees.
Rastetter's attorney, Paula Dierenfeld, said in a cover letter filed Monday with the amended disclosure that Rastetter had relied on information included in statements filed by other public officials and guidance obtained in conversations with ethics board staff members for his initial filing.
"It has been and continues to be Bruce's intent to comply with the law and to disclose the information required in the personal financial disclosure statement," Dierenfeld wrote.
She said the state law on disclosure is unclear and the lack of specificity in the law makes it difficult to know how to complete the board's form.
"The more detailed information in Bruce's amended statement makes disclosures that go well beyond what the law may require or historically has been disclosed by other public officials, but he is providing it in the interest of putting this matter to rest," she wrote.
Part of Iowa CCI's complaint against Rastetter is that he filed a potentially fraudulent and falsified financial disclosure form.
"Rastetter is trying to cover his tracks but in reality this is a shocking admission of guilt," Ross Grooters, a CCI member from Pleasant Hill, said in a statement. "He knows he broke the law, and he's trying to avoid accountability just days before his ethics hearing."
Rastetter's amended filing lists his occupations as farmer, CEO of the diversified farming operation Summit Farms and CEO of Summit Group, an umbrella organization for several agribusiness activities and projects including AgriSol Energy and America Heartland Development.
He also lists ownership in publicly traded and hedge fund securities at several investment groups including Morgan Stanley and Edward Jones, and in agricultural and commercial real estate holdings.
Rastetter also said he earns income from service on boards including Advanced BioEnergy.
In the ethics complaint, Iowa CCI also claims the prominent Republican businessman worked with Iowa State University to pursue a large land development project in Africa. Iowa CCI and other environmental groups claim he tried to use his influence as a regent to benefit AgriSol Energy, an investment group he founded and manages that is developing farmland in Tanzania. The university withdrew from the project in February after mounting criticism.
Iowa CCI says Rastetter had a conflict of interest. The group claims he abused his role as a regent and public servant to seek a partnership between his company and the university for the project that could have netted him millions of dollars in profit while forcibly evicting thousands of refugees from their land.
Rastetter defended working with Iowa State on the plan and has blamed the criticism over his involvement on misinformation and public relations mistakes. Rastetter said his goal was to bring investment to Tanzania, helping it increase its food supply and spur economic development.
He said AgriSol dropped its plan to develop land it had been considering using after the company learned about problems in the Tanzanian government's removal of up to 160,000 Burundi refugees who have been living there.
Iowa CCI has called for Rastetter to resign and for Gov. Terry Branstad to fire him.
Branstad has said he trusts Rastetter's judgment.
Rastetter, who has contributed to the governor's campaign, was appointed by Branstad to the Board of Regents, which oversees the operations of Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.