Pro-ethanol group to stalk Ted Cruz across Iowa

Source: By SHANE GOLDMACHER, Politico • Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2016


AP Photo

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ted Cruz arrives Monday for his first Iowa trip of 2016, but he won’t just be battling Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. He’ll been fending off the state’s influential corn lobby.

As Cruz kicks off a six-day bus tour across the state, his critics in the state’s ethanol industry will be trailing close behind in a RV. They’re hoping to highlight the Texas senator’s opposition to a federal mandate that ethanol be mixed into gasoline at each of Cruz’s planned 28 stops.

“We’re going to be turning out all of our allies,” said Eric Branstad, the son of longtime Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and the state director for America’s Renewable Future. The group supports the so-called the Renewable Fuel Standard, which Cruz has vocally opposed. “Iowans can’t trust him and we have a duty to let them know why.”

In addition to trailing Cruz’s bus, the group is buying newspaper, radio and digital ads to shadow Cruz, and launching robo-calls to Iowans a month before the caucuses. At one point the group considered having someone dressed in a giant corn-on-the-cob costume stalk Cruz across the state. The idea was ultimately scrapped.

“We thought about bringing ‘Captain Cornelius’ but ultimately that’s not something that we’re doing,” said spokeswoman Majda Sarkic of the mascot the corn-growing industry has used previously.

Other pro-ethanol forces have hit Cruz, as well. A group called the Iowa Progress Project, run by Nick Ryan, who also works for a super PAC supporting Mike Huckabee, has aired $200,000 in anti-Cruz TV and radio ads over the issue.

The fact that Cruz has topped recent Iowa polls despite his opposition to the renewable fuel standard has the corn-industry nervous. The issue has long been perceived as a third-rail of Iowa politics and the agriculture industry here wants to keep it that way.

In 2012, two politicians who supported the standard, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, finished atop the pack. Those who didn’t, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, finished far behind. And in 2008, Barack Obama backed the standard in his primary against Hillary Clinton.

America’s Renewable Future has vowed to mobilize tens of thousands of caucus-goers next month.

“Ted Cruz’s policy in the White House would be as its always been for him — devastate Iowa’s farmers and its economy in order to pad the pockets of the oil industry,” Branstad said.

Cruz’s allies have attacked the fuel standard as a handout for “Big Corn.” “The Governor of Iowa is a Big Corn cheerleader, and his son is running a SuperPAC hitting Cruz for not bowing to worship Big Corn,” Cruz supporter and former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli wrote to supporters last week. “Tsk, tsk.”