If you read the previous post you probably found yourself thinking something like this….
Pshaw, Mark. Why would a US Attorney call up Iowa State University President Steven Leath, just to ask him if he really was the one who came up with the idea of having dinner with J. Bruce Harreld, on a day when Harreld was in Ames at Regents President Bruce Rastetter’s behest, meeting with four other regents at Rastetter’s business office, and benefiting from face time that was not made available to any of the other finalists for the position of president of the University of Iowa?
Well, that’s a fair question — if perhaps also a bit verbose — but we’ll get to the answer momentarily.
The Hen House
More broadly, you may be wondering why someone in the United States government would even care if a small group of corrupt bureaucrats hijacked the election of a university president. Don’t the feds have enough to deal with, what with every other thing going to hell in a handcart twice a week? Well, yes they do. But.
The thing about the federal government is that it doesn’t mind blowing money on its own terms, but it really doesn’t like it when somebody steps in and does so without permission. It’s kind of like how you feel about your own bank account. If you go on a drunken bender and drop $2,000 that you can’t account for when the weekend is over, well, there’s an important life lesson, or maybe six. On the other hand, if somebody steals twenty dollars from your wallet, chances are you’re going to make a federal case out of it, and rightly so.
While there are lots of colleges and universities across the country, most of them are not major research institutions. And while I don’t have a handy graphic that defines ‘major’ in that context, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal money alone, that you belong in that category. And the University of Iowa does that, every year. In 2015 the University of Iowa will bring in about $232,000,000, while in 2014 the total amount of federal money was just over $250,000,000. Add in private donations and state money, and each year over $500,000,000 flows into the University of Iowa.
On the federal front various departments are represented by those funds, from Health and Human Services to Education to the National Science Foundation to NASA to Defense. As you might expect, that money also comes with various strings and expectations, and even a few security clearances here and there. Among the expectations is the assumption that nobody will run off with, divert, monkey around with, broker, or leverage said funds for other purposes. So you can understand why the federal government might want to have confidence in whoever is accepting all those checks strewn with zeroes. In fact, they actually pay people to follow up on such things, to make sure there’s no hanky-panky going on. [ Read more ]