Governor auctions off dinner at Terrace Hill to benefit Christian school

By: - April 8, 2021 11:48 am

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is helping a faith-based school raise money by allowing the school to auction off a dinner with herself at the governor’s mansion. (Screen shot of BidPal website tied to Des Moines Christian School True Blue Gala.)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds is helping a faith-based school raise money by allowing it to auction off a dinner with her at the governor’s mansion.

Reynolds is assisting with the Des Moines Christian School’s current fundraiser, the 2021 True Blue Gala, on April 10. As part of the fundraising effort, the school is soliciting online bids on a dinner-for-eight package with the governor and her husband at their official residence, Terrace Hill.

In soliciting bids, the school estimates the value of the dinner as “priceless.” So far, the bidding is up to $21,050, making it one of the gala’s priciest auction items — although bidding for a reserved parking spot at the school has already hit the $40,000 mark.

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference on Sept. 10, 2020. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Des Moines Christian School says its mission is to nurture graduates who are “servant-hearted leaders” and “passionate apprentices of Christ.” Donors to the gala are told their contributions represent an investment in the school’s effort to “impact the world for Christ!” The school has been awarded public-charity tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service due to its mission of providing “Christ-centered education” for youth.

The governor’s spokesman did not respond Thursday to questions about the use of Terrace Hill for a private, faith-based fundraiser.

In the past, Reynolds and her immediate predecessor, fellow Republican Terry Branstad, have auctioned off meals or some of their time to benefit other nonprofit organizations or charities. In at least two cases, the auctions have included access to Terrace Hill or a special tour of the Iowa Capitol building, both of which are maintained at taxpayer expense.

The True Blue Gala is also not the first time an Iowa governor has used his or her office to raise money for a faith-based entity. In 2016, Sacred Heart School in Boone, which is run by the Catholic church, was reported to have  auctioned off a private dinner for four with then-Gov. Terry Branstad and his wife at the mansion.

In February, the Associated Press reported Reynolds auctioned off an afternoon of her time to raise money for a charity tied to a couple who has contributed to her campaign and who owns Iowa Select Farms, one of the nation’s largest pork producers.

A gala to benefit the Deb and Jeff Hansen Foundation featured an auction for an “afternoon with Iowa’s leading lady.” The package was advertised as lunch for four at Terrace Hill, followed by a trip to the Capitol for discussion and “a personalized tour” of the statehouse. Pork industry executive Gary Lynch submitted the winning bid of $4,250, the AP reported.

At the time, Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett told the AP the event was one of many that have involved the governor auctioning off meals and tours to benefit charities. “All of these are great causes that help people in need,” Garrett told the AP.

Representatives of former Democratic Govs. Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver told the AP their administrations never auctioned off access to the governor or to the governor’s official residence.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.