Senator-elect Joni Ernst’s Koch-linked spokeswoman busted for DUI days before election
The campaign spokesperson for Iowa’s senator-elect Joni Ernst quietly resigned just days before the election after being arrested for driving drunk, her second altercation involving police and alcohol in slightly more than two weeks.
News of Gretchen Hamel’s arrest, after she was found passed out behind the wheel of her vehicle after crossing multiple lanes and going over a curb on the evening of Oct. 29, was not reported by the Des Moines Register until two days after the election.
Hamel, who joined the Ernst campaign following a four-year stint as the Executive Director of Public Notice — a Koch brothers-backed group based in Virginia — after serving as a PR specialist in the Bush White House.
According to a resident of the area, Robert Daniels, he and another witness found Hamel hunched over her console with the car still running. Her vehicle appeared to have crossed the opposite lane leading him to check the car before calling police.
After an officer arrived and shined a flashlight into Hamel’s car in an attempt to wake her, she suddenly woke up and tried to flee in the car.
“All of a sudden she floored it and the car ran up the curb with all four tires and almost ran over the cop,” Daniels said.
According to the police report Hamel blew a .181 on the breathalyzer test and “pleaded” with the arresting officer not to take her in , saying “this would cause her to lose her job.”
Hamel was also involved in another incident in Iowa on Oct. 13 after crashing her Ford Explorer into a sign post. Police state that she was in the passenger’s seat when they arrived, and stated that a man she identified as “Robert” was driving the car when it crashed. She then told police that he “took off running” after the crash.
“Hamel later admitted that she lied and that she was the one driving the vehicle,” the report states, adding that she blew a .164 on the breathalyzer. Hamel, who told the officers that she had three drinks that evening but had not eaten, was not arrested because “she wasn’t operating the vehicle when officers arrived,” the report states
Hamel was charged with failure to maintain control of her vehicle, and having an invalid driver’s license and expired car insurance.
According to a spokesperson for newly elected Senator Ernst, Hamel resigned the morning after her second run-in with the law.
“This is a personnel matter which we will not discuss in the press. We wish Gretchen nothing but the best and appreciate her efforts,” said Ernst campaign manager Jon Kohan in a statement.