Former Steve King Donors Have Given Over $115,000 to His 2020 Primary Rivals

But other prominent King donors remain loyal to the congressman despite his increasingly evident white nationalist sympathies

From left, official government photos of Randy Feenstra, Steve King, and Jeremy Taylor.

Donors to Steve King’s previous congressional campaigns have already given more than $115,000 to his 2020 Republican primary rivals, according to contribution disclosures for the first quarter of the year filed last week with the Federal Election Commission.

The filings also show that King’s strongest opponent so far, Hull state Sen. Randy Feenstra, outraised the congressman by nearly $200,000, bringing in $260,442 to King’s $61,667. Bret Richards, a former mayor of the small western Iowa town of Irwin, also outraised King with $65,556, although over $51,000 of that — including a $48,000 loan — came from the candidate himself.

Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, a former state representative and third primary rival, raised the least with $57,729. However, that number includes contributions totaling $34,616 from 25 individuals who gave King $125,498 in past election cycles, including $5,200 in the 2018 cycle. (Laura Belin reports there’s speculation that some of Taylor’s donors may still be loyal to King and are attempting to split the opposition vote.) By comparison, Feenstra received $83,200 from 38 individuals who previously backed King to the tune of $136,400, including $6,700 in 2018; plus another $7,500 from three political action committees that previously gave King $40,000, including $1,000 in 2018. Richards did not get any money from the incumbent’s former donors.

Includes both itemized individual contributions and contributions from 527 groups and PACs.

When Feenstra’s report was filed April 15, reporters quickly noticed his most notable donor: Former Gov. Terry Branstad, who now serves as President Trump’s ambassador to China and gave the candidate $1,000. In 2012, when King was running for the first time since redistricting placed him in the 4th, against former first lady Christie Vilsack, Branstad gave his campaign $2,740 — the first, and last, time the former governor would give to King since a $250 donation in 2007.

There were also several prominent defections from King to Feenstra from the business world.

John Smith, owner of the Cedar Rapids-based trucking company CRST International Inc., and his wife, Dyan, had been among the congressman’s top individual donors, giving him $23,000 from 2006 to 2014. In a single day in February, they donated nearly half that amount to Feenstra: $10,800, which would have to be split between the primary and general elections to avoid exceeding contribution limits.

Along with his wife, Vicki, Steve Sukup, CFO of the Sheffield-based Sukup Manufacturing Co. family business, supported King as recently as March 2018; the couple has given the congressman a total of $22,450 since 2006. But 12 months later, it appears that Steve would rather back a different Republican in the general this time after tossing $1,000 to Feenstra.

Kum & Go convenience store chain CEO Kyle Krause, who’s given $5,150 to King but not since the 2010 cycle, donated $2,700 to Feenstra. His wife, Sharon, who is listed as a Kum & Go owner with him on the FEC filing, matched her husband’s donation. Sharon also runs Dalla Terra Ranch LLC, which became the state’s first organic sheep ranch in 2006.

Siblings Scott and Tami Doll, owners of the Council Bluffs-based Doll Distributing LLC, a beer distribution company, each gave Feenstra $2,500. In 2017, they each donated $1,000 to King; before that, Scott had given the congressman $13,200 since 2002. Julia Doll, the wife of another Doll sibling and business co-owner, Mark, also gave Feenstra $2,500. From 2002 to 2014, Julia gave King $6,000.

Other business community donors jumping from King to Feenstra include Frank Vogel, former head of the Orange City-based Diamond Vogel Paint Co., and his son, Drew, the company’s current CEO, who each gave Feenstra $2,500. They both stopped donating to King after 2014, at which point Frank had given the congressman $3,000 and Drew $1,200. Doug Boone, CEO of Premier Communications, a broadband provider in Sioux Center, cut King $500 checks in 2012 and 2018, but he’s already given $5,600 to Feenstra. W. Dale Den Herder, CEO of Sioux Center’s American State Bank, has given King $4,250, but not since 2014. He’s given $5,250 to Feenstra. Orange City’s Adrie Groeneweg, owner of conservative favorite Pizza Ranch, also stopped giving to King in 2014 after sending him $1,450. He gave Feenstra $1,000.

Feenstra also won the support of three formerly King-loyal political action committees. He took in $5,000 from the United Parcel Service Inc. PAC, which previously gave the congressman $6,000 from 2002 to 2016. The challenger got another $1,500 from the Hy-Vee Inc. Employees’ PAC, which gave King $6,000 from 2002 to 2014; and $1,000 from the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association Rural Broadband PAC, which gave King $25,000 from 2004 to 2018.

A look at the last election cycles that previous Steve King donors gave to the congressman (including 527 groups and PACs).

Jeremy Taylor, the Woodbury County supervisor, has snagged some impressive former King donors of his own, all of whom live in the vicinity of the county seat of Sioux City, some in South Dakota just across the Big Sioux River.

Chief among them include Jefferson, South Dakota, resident Michael Bennett, former CEO of the Sioux City fertilizer company Terra Industries Inc., who contributed $2,700 to Taylor. Bennett and his wife, Margie, had been reliable King supporters since his first bid for Congress in 2002, together giving him over $51,000 and as recently as last fall.

Nancy and William Metz of North Sioux City, South Dakota, are part of Sioux City’s Metz Baking Co. family that’s collectively given King $38,400 from 2010 to the summer of last year. This year, Nancy and William instead each gave Taylor $2,800.

Another nearby couple, Jon and Nan Winkel of Sergeant Bluffs, donated $2,700 apiece to the challenger after dropping $31,400 on King as recently as 2016. Jon is a former vice chairman of Siouxland telecom company Long Lines LLC.

Regina Roth founded Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. (commonly known as BPI) with her husband, Eldon. She gave Taylor $2,700. Although her past donations of $7,400 to King ceased after the 2010 cycle, her husband’s contributions to the congressman — $11,400 in sum — include $2,700 given just four days before the 2018 general election. He has yet to donate to anyone in the 4th District race for 2020.

Other King backers-turned-Taylor donors include Terry Lutz, CEO of Clive-based McClure Engineering Co., who gave Taylor $2,700 following a single $2,600 gift to the congressman in 2014. Brad Wilson, president of Sioux City Truck Sales Inc., gave King a total of $3,350 through 2018 but $500 to Taylor this year. Charese Yanney, a roofing contractor in the same city who’s given King $3,200, helped Taylor out with another $2,700 this year. Kent Baker, editor of the weekly Moville Record newspaper who once supported King, gave Taylor $500.

A single previous King donor gave to both King and Taylor this time: Bob Henderson, a math teacher at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City who’s donated $950 to King in the past. This year, Henderson has given another $500 to the congressman but $1,500 to Taylor.

The average contributions per unique donor (including 527 groups and PACs) that previously gave to Steve King.

Despite the many defections, Steve King does still have some loyalists. The 19 donors to his campaign in the first quarter who previously supported the congressman gave him a total of $15,975. Their combined donations from past cycles totaled $127,695. He also received $2,000 from Texans for Lamar Smith, a 527 group connected to the former Texas congressman that previously gave King $3,000 from 2014 to 2018.

Bruce Baumgarn, a Grimes resident and management consultant who used to run Mail Services LLC, a Des Moines-based mail distribution company, is one of them. He and his wife, Barbara, donated $5,000 to the congressman, adding to the $49,700 they’d previously given him since the 2012 cycle. Casey’s General Stores co-founder Don Lamberti gifted King $2,000, adding to the $26,300 he and his wife, Charlene, previously sent his way from 2002 to last August. And Butch Parks, the Okoboji marina owner who along with his wife, Debbie, had already given King $27,600 from 2008 to last October, added another $2,500 to the pot. Gary Ruebel, who owns the Des Moines-based ag company Chemorse, gave King $1,050 on top of the $13,200 he’s contributed in past cycles.

On a final local note, although prominent Ames businesspeople once contributed generously to King when the college town was redistricted into the 4th after the 2010 census, no one from here has given money to King or any of his three opponents so far for 2020.

Gavin Aronsen
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.