ChickenGate: Rep Bruce Braley Ruffling Feathers in Iowa Over Petty Chicken Dispute

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley already had a perception problem for being an out-of-touch, elitist trial lawyer who mocks farmers. Now, he’s angered neighbors in his Brooklyn and Holiday Lake community for filing a formal complaint against a neighbor and her therapeutic hens who help children with mental health and communication issues. 

Last March, Braley, who is up against GOP nominee state Sen. Joni Ernst for the open Senate seat in Iowa, was caught on tape insulting Iowa farmers.  Speaking to fellow lawyers at an out-of-state fundraiser, he said, “if you help me win this race you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for thirty years, in a visible or public way, on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because, if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

So this latest unpleasantness over some wandering chickens is not helping his image problems in Iowa. Phillip Rucker writes at the Washington Post that the chicken dispute is in fact threatening his bid for the senate.

This spring, Pauline Hampton’s chickens roamed onto Bruce and Carolyn Braley’s vacation property on tranquil Holiday Lake. Hampton said she did not know this until she walked over one day to offer Carolyn a dozen fresh eggs. To which she said her neighbor replied, “We aren’t going to accept your eggs — and we have filed a formal complaint against you.”

Carolyn took her complaint to their neighborhood homeowners’ association board meeting in May. Her husband, Bruce, then called the association’s lawyer, Thomas Lacina, to say that he believed “chickens are not pets and should not be permitted at Holiday Lake,” and that he wanted to “avoid a litigious situation,” according to an e-mail Lacina wrote. Braley denied that he threatened a lawsuit.

But according to the Iowa Republican, Braley called the attorney Lacina and did issue “a veiled threat” to litigate the matter before the 30 day window closed for Hampton to rectify the problem.

To resolve the dispute, Lacina billed the association $1,692, according to budget documents reviewed by board members at their July 10 meeting.

Braley’s actions stunned Terry Maxfield, the Secretary of the homeowners’ board. “You really can’t publish what my opinion is,” she said. “I think it was petty. For someone with a higher education like that, it was petty. It was a waste of resources and money.” 

Bill Nagle, an association board member, said, “It’s stupid that it went this far. Any reasonable person would have talked to their neighbor in a reasonable fashion instead. For being brought up on a farm, he sure has lost his rural, farm values.”  

Nagle also told the Washington Post. “Buddy, we’re here in Iowa. We talk like men here and we act like men,” he said. “Usually, a man’s word is like gold. A handshake is a contract. Neighbors are neighbors, and if you’ve got a problem with your neighbor, you talk it out.”

Pauline Hampton, a licensed therapist and U.S. Air Force veteran Hampton, is “saddened by Braley’s behavior.”

“It [is] very important the citizens of Iowa know who they would be supporting and voting for to represent their best interests and the interests of farmers, and in [this] particular case, the support of children with mental illness and disabilities. It’s sad this situation is based on something as simple as a chicken at large situation,” Hampton told

She’s also disappointed that the Braleys “blindsided her with the complaint instead of trying to work it out neighbor-to-neighbor.”