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Iowa GOP chair resigns from group tied to anti-Romney mailers

 

MASON CITY, Iowa -- Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn today resigned from his position with Strong America Now after the founder’s Super PAC sent campaign mailers to Iowans praising Newt Gingrich and attacking Mitt Romney.

Strawn announced he resigned immediately from any further involvement with Strong America Now after the Strong America Now Super PAC -- both founded by Michael George -- released two separate direct mail pieces calling Romney “the second-most dangerous man in America” and backing Gingrich for president, as NBC News reported late Tuesday.

The Super PAC appears to be tied to the prominent 501(c)(4) non-profit organization focused on eliminating the national debt, Strong America Now. The same address that is listed as paying for the Super PAC mailers is listed on Strong America Now’s website –- an address in Lewisville, TX.

Strawn has been receiving a paycheck from the 501(c)(4) since last February, when he agreed to serve as an Iowa state co-chair for the group. He even spoke on Strong America Now’s behalf at various events throughout the state this year.

As chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, Strawn is expected to remain neutral in the upcoming first-in-the-nation caucuses, which the Iowa GOP runs.

In his letter informing George of his resignation -- reported exclusively by The Iowa Republican this morning -- Strawn said he wanted to “remove any appearance of conflict with my neutrality and impartiality with the Republican presidential nomination contest.”

Despite legal separations between the Super PAC and the non-profit organization, Strawn left, claiming he was not made aware the group was going to move towards aliening itself with one candidate and attacking another.

“While the Strong America Now super PAC may be a separate legal entity, the reality is that the assurances I was once given are no longer true regarding candidate advocacy,” he said in the letter.

Even the 501(c)(4) -- which hasn’t publically endorsed a candidate -- has sent mailers to Iowans in recent weeks rating the candidates. The Strong America Now voter guide for Iowans last week gave Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry all grades of “A,” while Romney got a “D” from the organization.

Many Iowa Republicans say it was a smart move for Chairman Strawn to finally cut ties with both of George’s organizations.

“It's extremely important for any party official to stay neutral from supporting or endorsing any candidate, Super PAC or advocacy group as it can appear to taint the process,” longtime Iowan Republican Becky Beach told NBC News. “It's just unfair to the other hard working folks in the race.” 

"He had to walk a fine line," Dave Funk, who worked with Strawn at Strong America Now as a surrogate speaker, added about Strawn working at the organization.

"If the subject of the Super PAC came up, or any other state party issues, we removed ourselves from the conversation. There is no question Matt did the right thing and conducted himself appropriately," he said.