Rastetter’s Scandal-Riddled Tenure on Board of Regents Draws to a Close

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Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter. Photo: IprImages/Flickr

Bruce Rastetter, the Iowa ag baron and Donald Trump campaign adviser, has said he won’t seek reappointment to the Iowa Board of Regents, according to a report Friday in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. In a statement, Rastetter said he was working on “several significant projects that we have in the initial planning stages,” adding, “I look forward to announcing details about them very soon.”

Rastetter’s tenure on the board, which began in 2011 and led to his appointment as president two years later, has been mired in scandal. His initial appointment was viewed by many as a political favor from Gov. Terry Branstad, whom Rastetter convinced to run again, providing major financial backing for the comeback campaign. On the board, Rastetter has made a number of questionable moves, including making (abandoned) plans to grab land in Tanzania that risked displacing 160,000 people; influencing agricultural research at Iowa State University to stifle criticism of Big Ag; hiring University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld in apparent violation of open meeting laws, which led to an ongoing lawsuit and sanction against the university from the American Association of University Professors for poor governance; arranging a property sale between his company, Summit Agricultural Group, and ISU President Steven Leath in apparent violation of conflict-of-interest rules; and later allowing a sham audit of Leath’s possibly illegal use of university aircraft for personal gain that let him off the hook.

Rastetter served as an agricultural policy adviser for Trump during his presidential campaign last year. His name was floated as a rumored finalist for the cabinet position of agriculture secretary, but although he visited Trump Tower after the election, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue was ultimately selected for the role.

Rastetter’s term as president on the board will be over at the end of April.

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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.