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State Journal: Iowa ethics flap; 'Black day'

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In trying to bend the ear of a few Iowa legislators, an official of the Des Moines Education Association also has gotten the attention of the state's House Ethics Committee.

Walter Galvin, the executive director of the D.M.E.A., has been accused of a breach of ethics for bringing up the subject of campaign contributions with lawmakers on the day of a big education vote.

Representative Gary Sherzan, a Democrat from Des Moines, alleged in an ethics complaint filed last month that Mr. Galvin approached him on the day the House was voting on an education-appropriations bill to ask him when he would like to meet with the teachers' union's political-action committee.

The PAC was interviewing candidates to determine whom to back financially in the primaries. Mr. Sherzan said Mr. Galvin's actions, coming on the day the education bill was being considered, violated House ethics rules that bar lobbyists from tying campaign contributions to a vote.

But Mr. Galvin said he had done nothing wrong and was "not a bit concerned'' about the ethics charge.

The D.M.E.A. official said his presence in the House on the day of the education vote was a coincidence. He explained that he was only trying to do Mr. Sherzan and other lawmakers a favor by setting up interviews with them in person, rather than bothering them at home.

No matter what the House ethics committee decides when it considers the case this summer, "I have nothing to lose,'' Mr. Galvin added.

"As I understand it, the only penalty they can put on me is to revoke my lobbying privileges, and I am not a registered lobbyist in the first place,'' he noted.

Mr. Galvin said some Iowa legislators appear "snakebit'' by the subject of ethics as a result of a recent controversy involving Senator Joseph Welsh, who resigned as Senate president and was reprimanded for his role in a financial scandal.

The outcome of the Iowa legislature's funding debate, meanwhile, has left the state's schools chief discouraged about the future of education.

Lawmakers this month approved an education budget that was nearly $40 million less than the amount anticipated by local school officials.

"I am convinced that this session has done significant damage to the long-term ability of education to compete, and I think Iowans ought to be concerned about that,'' Director of Education William L. Lepley was quoted as saying.

"If we're not careful, this could be a black day for education in this state,'' he added.--P.S. & H.D.

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