An air-conditioned “igloo” paid for by the Iowa Energy Forum will rise up from the straw poll campus in Ames next month, an attraction meant to woo Iowans’ affection with free treats, kids’ rides and displays about energy technology.
Another big group paying for buses to truck people to the Aug. 13 straw poll is Strong America Now, a nonprofit financed by a Texas businessman pushing for federal debt reduction. It paid $60,000 for tent space and the names of previous caucusgoers and straw poll voters.
The groups are part of the campaign within the campaign at the straw poll — advocacy organizations seeking to draw the attention of candidates, the media and Iowans to their policy issues. But the efforts of these two groups are drawing scrutiny.
One wrinkle is that the paid Iowa organizers for both Strong America Now and the Iowa Energy Forum wear two hats: They also are or have been paid consultants for the Tim Pawlenty presidential campaign. That raises suspicions from rival campaign operatives, who worry Pawlenty could see a straw poll advantage.