DES MOINES (AP) — The founders of a beef company who were major donors to Gov. Terry Branstad’s political campaign were among the business leaders who raised concerns about a state official whom the governor later tried to force out, according to court documents.
In a legal deposition given Nov. 26 and made public Wednesday, Branstad denied a lawsuit’s allegations that he targeted the official — Chris Godfrey, formerly of the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission — because Godfrey is gay.
The governor said he asked Godfrey to resign and cut his pay to the legal minimum in 2011 so that a more business-friendly commissioner could be appointed.
Branstad has previously said that business interests raised concerns about the commission, which rules on disputes involving employers and injured workers. The deposition revealed that those interests included Beef Products Inc. founders Eldon and Regina Roth, who gave $152,000 to Branstad’s 2010 campaign.
Branstad testified that he recalled having a “very serious” 2010 meeting with the Roths at the company’s headquarters in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. At the time, the company had a plant in Iowa.
“They said they were concerned about the direction that the workers’ compensation commission was going in Iowa, that it was driving up the costs of their business and making the state of Iowa less competitive,” Branstad testified.
Branstad’s attorney, George LaMarca, said Wednesday that the governor acted lawfully in asking for Godfrey’s resignation and cutting his pay. He said “no one person or business influenced the governor” on the matter.
Godfrey’s lawsuit alleges that the governor and his aides discriminated against him because he is gay. The suit is set for trial in November. Godfrey left the state job last year.