Letter to the editor: Bruce Rastetter self-interested, not altruistic

In a recent letter to the editor, a former president of the Government of the Student Body, Dakota Hoben, calls upon the Daily to thank Iowa Board of Regents President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter for his efforts to “bring about positive change to the Regents system for the sake of future generations of Iowans.” 

Hoben argues that the Daily consistently has trashed Rastetter and his efforts during the 2011-2012 academic year without crediting the Regent for his work that resulted in positive changes for higher education.

Let’s start from the beginning. Bruce Rastetter is among the wealthiest in Iowa. Starting as an entrepreneur and rapidly accumulating capital, he is now the CEO of Summit Group. Summit Group is the umbrella organization for Rastetter’s agricultural pursuits — these include commodity production, processing and international investment . 

With Rastetter’s gain in capital has come Rastetter’s increase in political influence. Rastetter has been an active member of the Republican Party for years. In 2010’s gubernatorial election, Rastetter was the single largest donor to the current Gov. Terry Branstad’s campaign. Not long after, Rastetter was appointed president pro tem of the Iowa Board of Regents by Branstad.

Hoben was right about a few things in his article regarding Rastetter’s involvement in higher education — Rastetter has an interest in higher education, and he certainly puts his money where his mouth is. It seems quite clear, however, that Rastetter’s interest in higher education amounts to nothing more than an interest in an education system that furthers commodity agribusiness and, as a consequent, his own personal wealth.

During his time as a Regent, Rastetter has been caught up in a hell storm of a scandal due to a highly ethically questionable (but of course profitable) land acquisition project pursued by Rastetter’s very own Summit Group. Summit Group was working on a deal that would have cleared a tract of land the size of Rhode Island that more than 100,000 people call home in the African country of Tanzania.

The land, already in use by local farmers, would then be utilized by Summit Group for commodity crop production. Rastetter worked closely with the Tanzanian government to secure a deal granting land to Summit Group for 55 cents per hectare. Making matters worse, Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (whom Rastetter presides over as president pro tem) teamed up with Rastetter for a time to offer knowledge, people power and credibility to the for-profit project. Needless to say, this was no humanitarian project. This was a land grab.

Hoben is correct: Rastetter puts his money where his mouth is. He contributed copious amounts of money to Branstad and was then given a position of high power associated with the very institutions that he could utilize for credibility in his grotesquely unethical for-profit ventures abroad.

Hoben is spot on: Rastetter is passionate about education. Rastetter is passionate about fostering an education system that supports commodity agriculture and consequently the growth of his own business pursuits at home and abroad, building a repertoire with students and the state of Iowa and lining his own pockets with more money.

Mr. Hoben, I’ll answer your question. Is Iowa State better today than it was two years ago? Iowa State was a better university when it was utilized only as a public resource, not a private profit machine. 

Iowa State was a better university when it was free from fat-cat influences such as Rastetter who seek to utilize their capital and political clout to buy and use Iowa State. 

Iowa State was a better university when we had GSB presidents who served students and protected the namesake of Iowa State.

Mr. Hoben, you accepted a position in business development at Summit Group from the very man who disgraced Iowa State’s reputation as a public resource and land-grant university. You later wrote a letter to the student-run newspaper asking it to thank this same man for his contributions to education. You failed to mention your relationship with Rastetter extending into the better part of last year, and you failed to mention the job promised you postgraduation and your current position in business development at Summit Group.

Is Iowa State better today than it was two years ago? Absolutely not.