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This led him to involvement in the local Chamber of Commerce and United Way.
He and his wife volunteered in the 1987 presidential campaign of Joe Biden.
In 2005, Vilsack established Heartland PAC, a political action committee aimed at electing Democratic governors.
In the first report, he raised over half a million dollars.
During the 2005 legislative session, Vilsack signed legislation designed to reduce methamphetamine use. He said: "You have an interesting balance between job growth, which everybody supports, and restricting the power of government, which a lot of people support". Vilsack is a former member of the National Governors Association Executive Committee.
It imposed greater restrictions on products containing the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, requiring them to be sold behind pharmacy counters rather than via open-access. He was chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2004.
In July 2005, Vilsack signed an executive order allowing all felons who had served their sentences to vote.It required purchasers to show identification and sign a log book. He was also chair of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, the Governors Ethanol Coalition, and the Midwest Governors Conference, and has also been chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association's committee on Natural Resources, where he worked to develop the NGA's farm and energy policies.Vilsack was thought to be high on the list of potential running mates for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.In his announcement speech, he said "America's a great country, and now I have the opportunity to begin the process, the legal process of filing papers to run for President of the United States." Vilsack dropped out of the race on February 23, 2007 citing monetary constraints.On January 27, 2007, Vilsack called into the Regular Guys Show hosted by Kurt Hurner to conduct a 15‑minute interview on his running for the Democratic nomination for 2008.
He helped pass a law for workers to receive health coverage when changing jobs, and helped re-design Iowa's Workforce Development Department.