Andy Kopsa

Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality

The Pizza Ranch, Blue Bunny and Bob Vander Plaats

Updated  July 22:  Seriously, I can’t make this up.  I love!  From a July 4th post on Urban Christian News:
“A congresswoman who has represented Minnesota for four years, Bachmann is on the second day of a new bus tour, in a full-size coach emblazoned with her name.
She was spending Sunday on the campaign trail, giving speeches at Point of Grace Church, followed by events at the Pizza Ranch and the Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor & Museum.”  
Killing two anti-gay birds with one stone.
_______________________________

Think Progress was all over it – the Wells family in Iowa – of Wells Blue Bunny ice cream fame – donating about a half-million of dollars to Bob Vander Plaats past gubernatorial campaigns but also to The Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC) is the federally funded ($3 million clams – don’t get me started) anti-gay Christian group that changed its name to The Family Leader last fall.

Blue Bunny products are all over the place – I posted the Think Progress story this morning and my friend Lisa from Boston, a glorious fag hag, quickly replied – horrified – she had just eaten some Blue Bunny last night.

My friends at Interfaith Iowa started a Boycott Blue Bunny Facebook page that is quickly ticking up “likes”.  You don’t mess with the gays people – when will you learn.

Blue Bunny posted this on its Facebook page today:

True private citizens do have a right to donate to whoever they want.  And since campaign financing is a matter of public record, we all have the right to see where candidate and cause funding come from so we can decide if we want to patronize their businesses.

But did you hear about the pizza?

From March 2011 New York Times article

I noticed earlier this year that Bob seemed to be slinging up at a lot of Pizza Ranches – when this story came out it made me wonder about the connection.  If you aren’t from the Midwest, you are probably not familiar with this local chain – there used to be one in the town near where I grew up.  It’s now a church.  Not kidding.

An intrepid reporter from Newton posted this about the Bob Vander Plaats/Pizza Ranch connection:

Iowa political reporters often joked on their blogs during Vander Plaats’ short run for governor last year that if you wanted to find him the best place to look was the local Pizza Ranch. The reason being, not that he didn’t like the pizza or the handy meeting rooms to meet with supporters, was that Vander Plaats and the founder of the Iowa pizza chain are old high school buddies from Hull.

According to the pizzeria’s web site, Pizza Ranch was started in 1981, the brainchild of Adrie Groeneweg, who was just 19 at the time.  And from a look at recent campaign finance reports, Groeneweg supported Vander Plaats’ run for governor, to the tune of a $5,000 donation last year.  What likely further cements the two men’s relationship can be found in the Pizza Ranch vision statement: “To glorify God by positively impacting the world we live in.”  So, based on his Pizza Ranch connection, here’s a list of where Vander Plaats will likely be headed soon.  As far as the business wisdom of the local Pizza Ranch franchisee’s, I’m guessing they don’t have much choice.

Nice.  I too noted the weirdness of the Pizza Ranch connection and Jesus-y vision in a quick post I wrote after the NYTimes article came out.

Inexplicably, Pizza Ranch COO Jon Moss told QSR (Quick Serve Restaurant Magazine) that the phenomenon of political candidates ending up stumping there with startling regularity happened all on its own:

On Sunday, July 3, dozens greeted a tour bus rolling into the parking lot of the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Carroll, Iowa. Out of the bus and into the drizzle stepped Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota representative who sits amid a crowded GOP presidential field.

Just one week before her visit to the Carroll location, another Republican presidential candidate, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, visited a Pizza Ranch outlet in Indianola, Iowa.

As it turns out, Pizza Ranch is becoming quite the destination for presidential candidates traveling Iowa in advance of the 2012 primaries. According to Pizza Ranch COO Jon Moss, Pizza Ranch’s emerging popularity with candidates has happened all on its own.

“We’ve got community rooms in every store and growing political attention in the state that has naturally allowed us to become a target for campaigns,” Moss says. “We expect this to only intensify in the coming months as the primaries draw near.”

Nothing to do with Pizza Ranch’s relationship and funding of Bob Vander Plaats.

Rand Paul will be speaking at a Spencer, Iowa Pizza Ranch on July 29th as announced on dad Ron Paul’s campaign website.

Mike Huckabee stumped at Pizza Ranches all over Iowa in 2007 – Vander Plaats was Huc’s main man in Iowa.

T-Paw spoke at a Ranch in Ames, Iowa.

Of course Bob’s “Capturing the Momentum” tour revolved around Pizza Ranch locales – momentum from the removal of three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ruled same-sex marriage legal in Iowa.

Could Pizza Ranch, in addition to family members forking over cash to past Vander Plaats campaigns, be giving over in-kind donations to IFPCAction – the PAC arm of The Family Leader?  Maybe just directly to The Family Leader which is a 501(c)3 organization.   In-kind donations are nothing to sneeze at -Pizza, soda, cheese-balls and space have to cost something.

11 comments on “The Pizza Ranch, Blue Bunny and Bob Vander Plaats

  1. Helen Kopsa
    July 21, 2011

    Hmmmm–Off The Record sure sounds familiar or is it familiar? (Love the quilty thingies.) HK

    • akopsa
      July 21, 2011

      Um, it should – It’s all your fault! xo a

  2. Darrell Lewis
    July 22, 2011

    If the Pizza Ranch is giving in-kind support for candidates for any local or state office in Iowa this is quite likely a violation of Iowa Campaign Disclosure Laws. (Ia Code, 68A.503 Financial institution, insurance company, and corporation restrictions).

  3. Darrell Lewis
    July 22, 2011

    You should take the information you have compiled and file a complaint and ask for an investigation by the Iowa Campaign Finance Disclosure Board.

  4. Darrell Lewis
    July 22, 2011

    The Iowa Laws do NOT apply to candidates for Federal Office, but they do apply to state candidates, state PAC’s and state ballot issues.

  5. Helen Kopsa
    July 22, 2011

    Just wondering if Pizza Ranch throws out the welcome mat for Dems as well as Repubs?

    • akopsa
      July 22, 2011

      Hmmm. I will look into it. Because if they do – the shouldn’t.

  6. Pete Hussmann
    July 22, 2011

    Hey, thanks for picking up my VanderPlaats/Pizza Ranch connection.
    Pete Hussmann
    Newton Independent

    • akopsa
      July 22, 2011

      No – thank you! It is people like you on the ground that do the foot work and bring attention to the things that need to be seen! Andy

  7. susan
    July 22, 2011

    Pizza Ranch Founder Cleared Of Sex Abuse Convictions
    By News Staff
    Published: October 20, 2006, 7:50 AM

    The founder of the Pizza Ranch restaurant chain has been cleared of sexual abuse convictions that landed him in prison for more than four years.

    In a court ruling filed this week, a judge cleared Lawrence Vander Esch of wrongdoing after a state Supreme Court decision redefined the parameters for sexual abuse. The judge’s ruling also lifted requirements that Vander Esch register as a sex offender.

    Assistant Iowa Attorney General Mary Tabor says her office is considering appealing the ruling.

    Vander Esch pleaded guilty in 2001 to fondling teenage male employees of the Pizza Ranch in Hull after falsely persuading them to donate semen samples for a medical research project.

    Vander Esch was sentenced to ten years in prison but was released in March for good behavior.

    A month before his release, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that sexual abuse does not occur if a defendant deceives a victim to get consent to perform a sex act. The ruling was applied retroactively to Vander Esch.

  8. Pingback: What up Kim Reynolds? Lt. Governor and another anti-gay Iowa bus tour | Andy Kopsa

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