AP: Leath’s Passengers Included NRA Board Member for Outing with Mike Pence

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Ryan Foley’s latest on #planegate reveals the names of more passengers who flew with Iowa State University President Steven Leath on the university’s King Air, often on hunting trips, including his “best friend” Bill Dougherty; Ankeny businessman and ISU donor Mel Weatherwax, who, Foley writes, “made headlines in 2013 when he yelled and charged at Kansas basketball coach Bill Self after the Jayhawks defeated the Cyclones, forcing an officer to restrain him”; and Pete Brownell, an NRA board member and CEO of firearms supplier Brownells Inc., who joined Leath and Ames realtor Dean Hunziker on a September 2014 outing to Indiana to meet with real estate investor Steve Hageman and Gov. Mike Pence, who’s now Donald Trump’s running mate.

In an interview with the Iowa State Daily earlier this month, Leath claimed he had “nothing to hide” and scolded Foley for being “totally inappropriate” by asking university donors questions related to their trips – even though it was ISU itself that had mistakenly posted the unredacted information online to begin with.

“President Leath’s use of university aircraft as well as his sharing of his personal interests and engaging the interests of current and prospective donors has proven to be tremendously beneficial to the university,” Leath spokeswoman Megan Landolt told the AP. The spin echoes the university’s previous insistence that because the trips involved business affairs they did not violate university policy prohibiting travel strictly for personal reasons.

Since the scandal broke last month with news – also reported by the AP – that in July 2015 Leath damaged the university’s other plane, a Cirrus SR22, during a hard landing at an Illinois airport on a return trip from an 11-day vacation to North Carolina, ISU’s accounts of what transpired have changed repeatedly, with some stories appearing to be outright fabrications.

Leath plans to address the scandal at the Board of Regents’ next meeting later this week at the University of Northern Iowa.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.