By David Goodner
When 24-year old Iowa native Kevin Rutledge first heard that former Texas governor and potential Republican Party presidential candidate Rick Perry had been appointed to the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners, which is attempting to build a pipeline carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale through his home state, he was hopping mad.
So on February 16, Rutledge decided to drive three hours from Des Moines to Sioux City, Iowa and ask Rick Perry face-to-face about his ties to the company during a town hall meeting at Morningside College.
Rutledge is from Ottumwa, Iowa and the proposed route of a new Dakota Access crude oil pipeline would cut right through the heart of the southeast Iowa county where he grew up, potentially impacting his home community with oil spills, polluted waterways, and damaged farmland.
“Iowans and Americans are tired of not being listened to because we don’t have millions of dollars to influence politicians,” Rutledge told DeSmogBlog. “I heard about ties between Rick Perry, Iowa Governor [Terry] Branstad, and the Bakken oil pipeline and immediately knew this was an opportunity for me to ask him a question about it and bring this issue into light.”
Although the Des Moines Register ignored the run-in entirely in their coverage, at least two other big city newspapers, The Sioux City Journal and The Houston Chronicle, reported on Rutledge’s confrontation with Perry. Rutledge also posted a video of the incident to his YouTube channel, including a full transcript of the four-minute interaction, reported on now for the first time by DeSmogBlog.
The video shows a visibly nervous Perry and the young Iowa State University alumnus going back-and-forth for several minutes on the proposed pipeline and the role of big money in politics.
Iowans like Rutledge think Perry’s board appointment is extremely relevant, saying that industry money that he and other presidential contenders are flooding into the state of Iowa is corrupting the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses.
Rutledge and other concerned Iowans say there is no way to trust the integrity of Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad and state regulators like the Iowa Utilities Board.
They believe that because nationally prominent political allies of Branstad like Perry raise millions of corporate dollars to come to Iowa and campaign for nationwide office, giving public speeches on the importance of “energy independence” and de-regulating government when both they and their financial supporters stand to gain from the policies they champion.
Perry has spoken both publicly and privately in support of Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Bakken oil pipeline in Iowa before his appointment to the board of Energy Transfer Partners was made public.
Pipeline politics are not nearly as popular with the GOP’s grassroots base as they are with the GOP’s Big Business wing. The issue could potentially threaten Perry’s presidential aspirations, as his direct financial ties to Energy Transfer Partners and the Dakota Access oil pipeline may alienate him from family farmers and libertarian voters.
Perry may have also unwittingly painted a giant protest target on his back that a growing grassroots coalition of environmental activists, or other social movement actors like the American Friends Service Committee’s Presidential Campaign Project, are sure to exploit every time he visits the Hawkeye state throughout Caucus season.
Photo Credit: YouTube Screenshot