The Businesspeople Who Have Helped Enable Steve King’s Rise: Part 2

A look at more of the congressman's top supporters, including major donors to Iowa State University and Cornell College, a trucking tycoon who created a shell company to funnel a quarter-million dollars to a pro-Trump super-PAC, and a self-described pirate who runs an Okoboji marina business

Clockwise from top left:, Parks Marina Okoboji/YouTube, Wilson Trailer Company/YouTube, Lied Place Residences; center: Congressman Steve King/Facebook

This is Part 2 of a series on Steve King’s top individual donors. Read Part 1 here.

In early January, before his defense of the term “white supremacist” in the New York Times led to the loss of his three House committee assignments, we profiled some of Steve King’s biggest individual campaign donors over the years. But that only scratched the surface of the dozens of big-money financial backers who’ve given the congressman’s campaign and political action committees five-figure contribution totals. With King defiantly claiming he has “nothing to apologize for,” here’s a look at more of the businesspeople who have enabled his racist rhetoric on behalf of western Iowa on Capitol Hill.

Butch and Debbie Parks of Okoboji
Total since Oct. 27, 2008: $27,600
Last donated: Oct. 16, 2018

Butch Parks. Photo via Butch’s Blog: Notes from a pirate

Leo “Butch” and Debbie Parks are business owners with a stake in the Iowa Great Lakes tourism industry. They run Parks Marina Inc., a boat dealership started in 1983 on East Okoboji Lake that has since expanded to a second marina on West Lake Okoboji to include other ventures like the Okoboji Boat Works, a cruise, boat rental, and water sports entertainment business; and the tropical-themed Barefoot Bar, which Debbie opened in 2002. Until 2011, Butch wrote about the businesses at Butch’s Blog: Notes from a pirate.

The Parks’ business operations have long put them at odds with both the city and some of its residents. In 2005, propelled by two recent court victories overturning the city’s decisions to deny the Boat Works a liquor license for another bar and restrict the location of floating docks, Butch filed another lawsuit against the mayor and council members for their alleged “arrogant abuse of power” that he argued was preventing him from fully developing his property. The dispute ultimately reached the Iowa Supreme Court, which in 2006 overturned the earlier liquor license ruling, concluding that operating a bar on lakefront property violated a city ordinance. Two years later, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission concurred, and in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled against Butch again on a similar matter.

More recently, Butch became involved in a dispute with a group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Dickinson County that opposes his plan to sell property near the marinas to developers for a housing project. The group successfully sued to halt the project, at least temporarily, and in December, a judge tossed out a countersuit filed by Butch.

Bill and Lynn Persinger of North Sioux City, South Dakota
Total since Sept. 2, 2007: $27,200
Last donated: Jan. 31, 2018

Wilson G. Persinger, who goes by Bill, along with his brother John, took over as co-CEO of Sioux City-based Wilson Trailer Co. when his father, C. Wilson Persinger, died in 2010. The company, which was founded by the family in 1890, specializes in grain and livestock trailers and has five production facilities in Iowa, Missouri, and South Dakota. Now in the family’s fourth generation, the business aims “to carry out the Wilson legacy” with “the goal of being a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of transportation products,” according to a mission statement on its website. Lynn, Bill’s wife, is listed as a “homemaker” on campaign finance records.

Colin and Alice “Pokey” Jensen of Spirit Lake
Total since Sept. 30, 2002: $26,900
Last donated: May 8, 2015

Pokey and Colin Jensen. Photo via Iowa Community Foundations

Colin Jensen was a Sioux City businessman before retiring as president of the Irving F. Jensen Co., a construction firm that was part of a group of companies with a combined annual revenue of roughly $80 million when the family sold them to Bismark, North Dakota-based MDU Resources Group Inc. in 2005. The couple is also known for their philanthropy; they told the Iowa Council of Foundations that they drew inspiration from the ancient Greek statesman Pericles, known for his lasting literary and artistic achievements, paraphrasing their interpretation of his belief that immortality could be realized “not by what is engraved in stone monuments, but by what is woven into the lives of others.” The couple established the Sioux City-based Pokey and Colin Jensen Foundation in 1983 as well as five endowments through the Siouxland Community Foundation, which administers scholarship and other funds on behalf of donors. The Jensens have contributed to projects including Sioux City’s Elizabeth and Irving Jensen Softball Complex, named for Colin’s late parents; and the Sioux City Public Museum’s artifacts collection (PDF).

Don and Charlene Lamberti of Ankeny
Total since Aug. 19, 2002: $26,300
Last donated: Aug. 14, 2018

Don Lamberti. Screenshot via Keep Iowa Beautiful

As we previously reported, King donor Don Lamberti is the founder of Ankeny-based Casey’s General Stores Inc. The company first opened its doors in 1959 as an “old country store,” its website recounts, before growing into the gas station convenience store chain it’s known as today. In 2000, Lamberti also co-founded Keep Iowa Beautiful with late former Gov. Robert Ray to, according to the nonprofit’s website, “empower Iowans to bring cultural and economic vitality into our communities through improvement and enhancement programs.”

Bill Krause, the co-founder of competing West Des Moines-based convenience chain Kum & Go, also gave King three donations totaling $5,000 in 2011 and 2012. Krause died in 2014. He launched Kum & Go with his father-in-law, Tony Gentle, under the Hampton Oil Co., whose name was later changed to the Krause Gentle Corp. Gentle died in 2006. Sharon Krause, the wife of current Kum & Go CEO Kyle J. Krause, Bill’s son, gave King another $1,500 in March 2012.

Tam and Kathleen Allan of Lincoln, Nebraska
Total since April 27, 2011: $26,175
Last donated: October 30, 2017

Tam Allan. Image: Peak Physical Therapy/YouTube

A local real estate magnate, Tam Allan is the president of Village Development LLC, a company whose work has included establishing Walgreens pharmacy chains in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. His current project is a proposed $30 million, 20-story condominium complex called Lied Place Residences at the site of a former Applebee’s restaurant in downtown Lincoln.

The Allans are longtime Republicans. In 2011, Kathleen invited Dana Perino, a former press secretary for George W. Bush, to Lincoln to promote her Minute Mentoring program, described by the company as “fast-paced mentoring sessions — akin to speed dating — for accomplished women leaders and young women rising stars.” Tam’s campaign contributions have also included $6,000 to former Gov. Mike Johanns, who appointed him to the Nebraska State Fair Board in 2004 (PDF), on which he served through 2013; and $1,000 to current Gov. Pete Ricketts, who himself gave King $20,400 from 2009 to 2016. (Curiously, Ricketts’ occupation, which may have been reported by King campaign staff rather than the now-governor, is listed as “farmer” for each of his contributions. He is not a farmer.)

Wayne and Monica Hoovestol of Elkhorn, Nebraska
Total since Aug. 15, 2008: $25,700
Last donated: May 16, 2018

Wayne Hoovestol. Photo via Ethanol Producer Magazine

Wayne Hoovestol is the president of Hoovestol Inc., an Eagan, Minnesota-based trucking company that delivers mail for the US Postal Service and has locations in Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Nebraska. The business was formed in 1978 by Wayne’s father, Burton Hoovestol, who died of stomach cancer in 2009. Wayne also serves as chairman of the board of Green Plains Inc., an Omaha-based ethanol producer.

Over the years, the Hoovestols have given more money to King than any other political candidate directly. But that total pales in comparison to another donation they gave in April 2018, as the Center for Responsive Politics reported, when they funneled $250,000 through the mysterious DRT LCC, a business incorporated 11 months prior, to the pro-Trump super-PAC America First Action. DRT shares a Carter Lake, Iowa, address with Lone Mountain Truck Leasing LLC, which was started by Wayne in 2005 and is now run by his son, Joe; its registered agent is Andy Lucht, a Hoovestol business associate named as chief financial manager of Lone Mountain in the company’s biennial reports filed with the Iowa secretary of state’s office.

Mark and Mary Ellen Nylen of North Sioux City, South Dakota
Total since Jan. 12, 2010: $28,400
Last donated: Nov. 2, 2018

Mark Nylen. Photo via Morningside College

Mark Nylen is the president of Jefferson, South Dakota-based Hepar Bioscience LLC, which uses animal byproducts to produce biochemicals. In 2013, the company expanded into the Flynn Business Park in nearby North Sioux City, where Mark and his then-wife, Mary Ellen Nylen, lived at the time. Four years later, the company was cited by the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources for dumping waste without permission. The couple also owned a home in Palm Beach, Florida, that they purchased for $5.4 million in 2010. Mark filed for divorce in 2014; the proceedings wound up before the South Dakota Supreme Court because of a dispute over attorney-client privilege. Mary Ellen, who now goes by the last name Kisting and lives in Spirit Lake, hasn’t given to King since September 2011. In November 2017, operating under the company name North Lake Way LLC, she sold the Palm Beach property to Mark for $7 million.

Charlie Schafer of Adair
Total since Oct. 23, 2001: $22,840
Last donated: Sept. 24, 2018

Charlie Schafer. Photo via LinkedIn

Charlie Schafer is the president and owner of Adair-based Agri Drain Corp., which he founded with his two brothers in 1976. The company provides conservation and water management products and services for farmers (Schafer himself holds a patent for a drainage tile flow regulator). He is also involved with two ag-focused environmental conservation groups, serving as president of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition and founder and CEO of Ecosystem Services Exchange LLC. The latter business has an office in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Schafer owns a million-dollar seaside property that is listed as his address for his latest donations to King. He’s also on the advisory committee of Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes, a five-year, $5 million research project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

John and Dyan Smith of Cedar Rapids
Total since October 26, 2006: $23,000
Last donated: June 18, 2014

Dyan and John Smith. Photo via Cornell College

Like Wayne Hoovestol, John Smith operates a trucking company: Cedar Rapids-based CRST International Inc., where he currently serves as chairman of the board. The company is among the largest of its kind in the US. It was founded in 1955, when John was 6 years old, by his late father, Herald Smith, under the name Cedar Rapids Steel Transportation Inc. to transport steel from Chicago. CRST counts among its past employees former Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, who in 2018 ran an inept GOP primary campaign for governor against Kim Reynolds that ended when he failed to obtain enough petition signatures to get on the ballot. Corbett’s bid was supported by Dyan Smith, John’s wife, who gave his campaign a staggering $100,000. (Iowa is one of just 11 states with no contribution limits for individual donors; the national average for a gubernatorial race among states with caps, as of June 2017, was $5,619, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.)

The Smiths are high school sweethearts and philanthropists, founding the John and Dyan Smith Family Business Initiative in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell College in Mount Vernon with a $10 million gift in 2014. They now have an eye on their family legacy. In 2012, they founded K&S LLC with a mission, according to the company’s LinkedIn page, “to protect and develop the human, intellectual, financial, and social capital of the John & Dyan Smith Family” by providing “a variety of services with the focus on education, wealth management, and wealth preservation.” Three years later, they named Amy Lynch, a former tax manager, as its CEO.

Steve and Vicki Sukup of Clear Lake
Total since Oct. 25, 2006: $22,450
Last donated: March 30, 2018

Steve Sukup is the chief financial officer and vice president of Sheffield-based Sukup Manufacturing Co., which was founded in 1963 by his father, Eugene (who along with his wife, Mary, has given King $21,500). The company specializes in grain bins — it’s been called “the world’s largest family-owned grain bin manufacturer” — material handling equipment, and prefabricated steel buildings. In addition to King, Sukup is close with former Gov. Terry Branstad, Trump’s ambassador to China, joining him on a trade mission to the country in 2016.

Starting second from left, Charles, Mary, Eugene, Steve, and Vicki Sukup at ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2009 with Iowa State University athletic director Jamie Pollard, left, and then-President Gregory Geoffroy. Photo via Iowa State University Foundation

The Sukup family also has close ties to Iowa State University. An alumnus with the class of 1979, Steve majored in industrial engineering. He’s a former president of the ISU Research Foundation and has made significant financial contributions to the ISU Foundation, the university’s fundraising arm. He joined his parents and brother, Charles, in 2009 to provide the lead gift for the $8 million, 29,000 square-foot Sukup Basketball Complex, where the Cyclones men’s and women’s teams practice. In 2015, a clubhouse in Jack Trice Stadium was named the Sukup End Zone Club after the family’s contribution toward the $50 million project to close in the south side of the stadium. The family also helped finance the construction of the Hixson-Lied Student Success Center and Sukup Hall, home to ISU’s agricultural and biosystems engineering department. When Sukup Manufacturing opened an Ames office in the ISU Research Park in 2017, the university-affiliated nonprofit’s president, Steve Carter, praised the company, saying it “has long been one of Iowa State University’s biggest supporters and partners.”

In 2012, Charles Sukup, president of the family business, praised King at an award ceremony hosted at Pella Corp. in Carroll by the National Association of Manufacturers for his “active understanding” of the manufacturing industry. At the event, King was presented with the organization’s Manufacturing Legislative Excellence Award.

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.