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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

(Photo: Kellie Parker/ Flickr)
(Photo: Kellie Parker/ Flickr)

Vander Plaats prompts PFLAG Blue Bunny boycott

House Republican also decries recent actions of The Family Leader
By Meghan Malloy | 07.22.11 | 5:44 pm

Bob Vander Plaats

A gay rights advocacy group is launching a boycott against Wells Enterprises — owners of Blue Bunny Ice Cream — for contributions the corporation’s chief executive has made in support of The Family Leader‘s CEO Bob Vander Plaats.

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — PFLAG — has also written an open letter to Vander Plaats, seeking an apology from the conservative activist for laughing at an off-color joke made by an attendee at a recent TFL event: “Iowa, the state where you can’t smoke a fag, but you can marry one.”

Vander Plaats’s actions were seen on video recently obtained by liberal advocacy group Think Progress.

Difference of opinions are allowed, but not without financial consequence, Dean Genth, of Mason City, warned Friday. Genth, an openly gay president of the Iowa Coalition of PFLAG Chapters, is behind the Blue Bunny boycott. Members of the Wells family, owners of the dairy mogul, have donated about $500,000 — mostly to Vander Plaats’s three gubernatorial runs, but also to the Iowa Family Center PAC, a political action committee with ties to The Family Leader, which was previously known as the Iowa Family Policy Center.

Prior to becoming head of The Family Leader, Vander Plaats unsuccessfully pursued political office and also formed Iowans for Freedom, a statewide group predominantly funded by out-of-state anti-gay interests to combat a 2009 Iowa Supreme Court decision that essentially allowed gays and lesbians to legally enter into civil marriages. The end result was the ouster of three justices, standing for 2010 retention votes.

Vander Plaats, acting on behalf of The Family Leader, has toured the state in the wake of the 2010 election “building on the momentum” of the ousters, and the organization has lobbied for impeachment of the remaining justices that took part in the unanimous 2009 decision as well as an amendment that would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the Iowa Constitution.

“People are becoming more compassionate about calling people out about this hate speech, and to people who want to take away people’s marriage equality and rights,” Genth told The Iowa Independent Friday. “People want to jump on whatever organization they can to prevent Iowa from becoming a state that embeds discrimination in its constitution.”

Genth has also written a open letter to Vander Plaats, asking for an apology:

Open Letter And A Call For An Apology From Mr. Vanderplaats (sic)

Mr. Vanderplaats,

Your outrageous and derogatory comments have no place in the public debate about moving forward with equality for our LGBT citizens. I respectfully ask you to consider the harm you are causing legions of family members and allies of the LGBT citizenry throughout the state of Iowa and around the country. Your words have been inflammatory and hurtful.

As President of the Iowa Coalition of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), I am calling upon you to issue an apology to our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Iowans for your hurtful comments and actions.

This vulgarity must cease.

We await your sincere apology,

Dean A. Genth, President
Iowa Coalition of PFLAG Chapters

The letter was sent Thursday morning; as of Friday afternoon, Genth said he had not heard from Blue Bunny or Vander Plaats. While Genth was hopeful about hearing a response, he indicated that he does not expect one.

“I’m not going to cancel any plans waiting for one,” he said.

Blue Bunny, for their part, issued the following statement, making a distinction between the company’s and the owners’ actions:

Blue Bunny and Wells Enterprises have never donated money to Bob Vander Plaat’s (sic) political campaign. Everyone, including our employees, has a right to support political activities within their role as a private citizen. What our employees support personally is in no way an endorsement by our brand or our company.

One Iowa, the state’s largest gay rights advocacy organization, is also attempting to get an apology from Vander Plaats: nearly 1,400 have signed a petition, and the group is seeking financial donations to push back.

“This week, we saw Bob Vander Plaats, the Family Leader, and their supporters for what they truly are — a pack of bullies,” One Iowa’s executive director Troy Price wrote in a letter seeking support. “It is up to each and every one of us to stand up to their derogatory and hurtful actions, and fight to preserve the rights of all Iowans.”

Criticism also rising from the right

Jeff Kaufmann

While it may come as little shock to know groups advocating for gay rights are at odds with Vander Plaats and The Family Leader, the criticism isn’t limited to those on the left.

Reporter Jason Clayworth with The Des Moines Register obtained an email sent by Iowa House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Kaufmann to Vander Plaats. Kaufmann, a Wilton Republican, served as Cedar County chairman for Vander Plaats’ failed gubernatorial bid.

Pledging to “share my opinion with many,” Kaufmann warns officials at The Family Leader that their “integrity is in question” and “political credibility is waning to the point of no impact.” Kaufmann also advises that the group should “keep your primary threats to yourself,” because he no longer believes the group carries enough respect in Iowa to carry out such threats.

Speaking to Clayworth, Kaufmann added that he’s “had it with their veiled threats toward people that won’t sign their pledges and do not vote they way they say.”

As The Iowa Independent previously reported, Vander Plaats has publicly stated lawmakers who disagree with his and The Family Leader’s positions are at risk of primary challenges. The rhetoric has only increased since The Family Leader placed its “The Marriage Vow” pledge onto its website in order to gather support signatures from the general public. Those signing the document are not only pledging to abide by the vow, but to deny support and their vote from any politician or elected official that refuses to sign the pledge.

“I think Bob Vander Plaats is more about Bob Vander Plaats than pushing any kind of selfless agenda,” Kaufmann concluded.

(Lynda Waddington contributed to this report.)

Follow Meghan Malloy on Twitter


  • Anonymous

    I understand the outrage, but people do have a right to support whom they choose.  Blue Bunny the corporation does not seem to be the donor; it’s the family that owns Blue Bunny.  A boycott doesn’t just affect these people; it affects all the employees from the entry-level plant worker to the executive board.  

    People like Vander Plaats have done so much damage in the past year, it’s easy to really want to strike back.  But Vander Plaats is in no way affected by this move…helpless bystanders are.  Meanwhile, BVP gets to see his name attached to yet one more headline; his group gets to cry martyr some more; and the people he’s been out to hurt demonstrate how easy it is to do so.
    It was a silly play on words.  Bob didn’t even say it, he just laughed at it.  This is not worth penalizing employees who are in no way connected to The Family Leader’s actions.

    If PFLAG wants to get its point across, they might do better to send a polite but firmly worded letter to the Wells explaining their reasons for feeling affronted by the Family Leader, that PFLAG believes in supporting ALL families, not just those that meet with Bob’s approval, and that the Wells family should remember that these families, ALL of them, are Blue Bunny customers and fellow Iowans, deserving of better treatment.  Antagonism rarely provokes anything but counterantagonism.

    • tom

      Likewise, consumers have the right to support or not support a corporation that helps underwrite Bob’s Bigotry Brigade. And Blue Bunny’s feeble attempt to distance itself from the Wells family is like News Corporation distancing itself from Rupert Murdoch.Both are still majority shareholders and ultimately wield the power in the corporate hierarchy.

      Granted, a boycott may hurt employees if sales drop and Blue Bunny choose to offset these losses by passing it on to their “helpless bystander” employees, rather than severing its financial ties with BVP or absorbing the losses in their executive pay, since the losses were consequences of their actions, not the other employees. Moreover if the Wellls family does step up and sever financial ties to BVP, he will be affected and further delegitimized, assuming his hubris doesn’t unhinge him in the meantime.

      Not to mention, I suspect that some of Blue Bunny employees are gay and/or have gay friends and family members who are affected by BVP’s crusade, so if anything, these are the “helpless bystanders” whose rights are currently under continuous attack by BVP’s narcissistic actions.

      • Anonymous

        It seems decidedly optimistic to suppose the Wells would absorb any losses themselves in recognition that their misdeeds had brought about their company’s misfortunes, or that an attack on their business would cause a change of heart.  It also deems decidedly optimistic that Bob’s supporters would see this as delegitimizing him, rather than as another unwarranted attack on the poor, helpless friends of the Family Leader.  The potential for media spin, in the context of a massive backlash in response to his showing a sense of humor at an admittedly slur-based play on words, seems to favor Bob.
        It’s fine and dandy to go crusading on behalf of the gay and lesbian employees of Blue Bunny…oh, wait, no it’s not.  If their livelihood is lost in an economy where another job may be hard to find, all to punish some people who may just opt to sell or liquidate the business and move on, it’s hard to imagine they’ll feel tremendous gratitude for such a cavalier approach to a complex issue.  If they felt it was worth risking their jobs and ability to provide for their families, they probably would have organized a walkout and boycott themselves.

        Given that Blue Bunny caters to families, media attention to the support given to agencies which attack families may be much more effective, by risking damage to Blue Bunny’s reputation.  A boycott may be quickly forgotten…remind me, who else are we boycotting?  But a negative public opinion may stain a company for a long time.  And demonstrating more civilized behavior will never hurt when the opposition repeatedly claims gay marriage threatens the foundation of civilization.

        I’m not saying that the Wells should be patted on the head and sent skipping off.  I am saying that there are other effective means which may have less collateral damage and be less polarizing for the people in the middle.  Because if you were on the fence on the subject of gay rights, and PFLAG cost you your job…. you probably wouldn’t be on the fence anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Kudos to the adult Republican in the room for putting the vile bigot in his place. I would like to see his home, and finances destroyed. Professional, Christian bigots deserve predatory scrutiny for their disgusting sexism. 

  • Matt S

    BVP stands for two things: personal power and greed.  Neither have any place in public politics.  BVP is the Fred Phelps of Iowa, without question and the Family Leader is one of the highest profile hate groups in the midwest.  It’s time people call him out for what he is: a bigot.  Only when he takes the time to respect another’s religious freedom should he be given another public forum.  And that will be never.

  • Anonymous

    What else does BVP do all day besides scheme against gay marriage?  Doesn’t he have better things to do?  He seems to be a big cry baby that when he doesn’t get his way has to stomp and kick until he gets it.  He’s screwed up our supreme court justices.  Are you going to try and undo gay marriage in NY too?  You don’t seem to have anything better to do with your time. I’m not lesbian, but I support all gays and lesbians and believe people should be able to marry whoever they want.  I have been brought up in a Christian household and was always taught to treat others as you’d like to be treated.  So Bob, are you treating others as you’d like to be treated?  I don’t think so.  You are just reading a bible and not really thinking about others feelings.  Go ahead think about what “you” want some more.  That seems to be what you are good at, getting things your way.

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