IA-Gov: John Norris calls on Democrats to limit campaign donations, spending

Iowa is one of only twelve states with no limits on individual contributions to state-level campaigns. John Norris is challenging Democrats who run for governor in 2018 to “lead by example,” adopting federal campaign contribution limits (capped at $2,700 per person) for the primary election.

Speaking to Democratic activists in Panora (Guthrie County) on April 27, Norris also urged gubernatorial candidates to agree to keep their primary election spending below $1.5 million, saying, “We should campaign on the power of our ideas and spend our time talking to Iowans and not chasing money from wealthy special interests.” I enclose below a longer excerpt from his speech.

Norris will decide soon whether to run for governor. Democrats Rich Leopold, Jon Neiderbach, and Dr. Andy McGuire are already running, likely to be joined by State Representative Todd Prichard, State Senator Nate Boulton, Fred Hubbell, Mike Matson, and/or Mike Carberry (though many Democrats expect Carberry to seek re-election as Johnson County supervisor instead).

Among those candidates, McGuire, Boulton, and Hubbell are the only ones well-positioned to collect many campaign donations larger than $2,700. McGuire recently completed a two-year stint as Iowa Democratic Party chair, during which she solicited many four-figure and five-figure gifts. Roxanne Conlin is among McGuire’s most prominent endorsers. Boulton raised a considerable amount for his first campaign in 2016 and is expected to have strong support from labor unions and attorneys if he joins the field. Hubbell is independently wealthy, having donated $30,000 to the state party during the 2016 cycle, as well as four-figure sums to some other Democratic campaigns. He is rumored to have the support of other central Iowa major donors including Bill Knapp, who gave the Iowa Democratic Party more than $60,000 during the last two years alone. (You can search any individual’s Iowa political donation history here.)

Neiderbach has made campaign finance reform a major theme of his early stump speeches and has promised not to accept any contribution exceeding $500. Leopold speaks often of the need to break the grip “expensive consultants, corporate lobbyists and powerful special interests” have on Iowa’s “insider elite political class.” Bleeding Heartland will soon publish an in-depth interview with Leopold that touches on similar themes.

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How liberal is the American Heartland? It depends...

Kent R. Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant who has measured and analyzed public opinion for public and private sector clients for more than 30 years. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The American Heartland is not as conservative as some Republicans want you to believe, nor is it as liberal as some Democrats would prefer.

Like the nation writ large, the American Heartland is dominated by centrists who make up nearly half of the vote-eligible population.

That conclusion is based on my analysis of the recently released 2016-17 American National Election Study (ANES), which is a nationally-representative election study fielded every two years by Stanford University and The University of Michigan and is available here.

Across a wide-array of issues, most Heartland vote-eligible adults do not consistently agree with liberals or conservatives. They are, as their group’s label suggests, smack dab in the middle of the electorate.

However, on the issues most important to national voters in 2016 — the economy, jobs, national security, and immigration — there is a conservative skew in the opinions of the Heartland. The Iowa Democratic Party, as well as the national party, must recognize this reality as they try to translate the energy of the “resistance” into favorable and durable election outcomes in 2018.

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Young a no, Blum nowhere as House leaders shelve new health care vote

U.S. House Republican leaders called off plans to vote today on a new proposal to replace the 2010 health care reform law. Representative David Young (IA-03) was among at least 21 Republicans who had indicated they don’t support the MacArthur amendment to the American Health Care Act.

At this writing, Young has not released a statement, and his communications staff have not responded to my inquiries. His social media feeds are full of the usual photos of constituents or groups who stopped by his Washington office this week. But on Thursday, other staffers told various constituent callers (including me) that Young’s “position has not changed” since he came out against the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act in March. The Hill included him on their “whip count” of no votes, based on Young’s comments to Independent Journal Review reporter Haley Byrd: “Moderate GOP member David Young says he’s still a no on AHCA and tells me he *somehow* hasn’t read the MacArthur amendment yet. (Hmm. Okay.)”

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) hasn’t commented publicly on the latest proposal, which was drafted to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus to which he belongs. I haven’t heard back from his communications staff, and numerous constituents who called his offices were told he has no position, either because nothing is on the House floor yet or because the bill is only in “draft” form. Notably, Blum didn’t wait for a floor vote to announce his opposition to the American Health Care Act last month. At that time, he said any health care reform bill needs “to drive down actual costs” and “help people who need the help.”

Groups including the AARP, the March of Dimes, American Hospital Association, and American Medical Association oppose the MacArthur amendment, under which states could decide not to force insurers to cover “essential health benefits.” The policy would also lead to much higher insurance premiums for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. The new Republican proposal envisions a return to state-based high-risk pools, which “failed consumers in the past.” Iowa was among 35 states that established high-risk pools before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Foundation explained the shortcomings well here.

I will update this post as needed if Blum or Young comment further on GOP health care reform alternatives. The third Iowa Republican in the U.S. House, Representative Steve King (IA-04), came around to supporting the American Health Care Act in March.

UPDATE: Iowans living in the first district continue to report being told that Blum’s staff told them he doesn’t have a position on the bill. Blum has taken a stand on countless other policies that never came up for a vote on the House floor. Just this week, he expressed support for President Trump’s “tax plan,” which is nothing like fleshed-out legislation.

I’ve added below a news release from State Representative Abby Finkenauer, who is likely to make her campaign against Blum official soon.

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IA-Gov: Ron Corbett continues to lay groundwork for 2018 campaign

Outgoing Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett continues to signal that he is serious about seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Speaking as “president and founder” of the Engage Iowa think tank, Corbett will deliver a major speech on education policy at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Rotary this Monday, May 1.

In a press release enclosed in full below, Corbett said, “This event kick-offs my second round of visits to Iowa rotaries. Last time I was talking about the need for tax modernization and improving Iowa’s water quality – two topics that were at the forefront of discussion this past legislative session and continue to be hot topics. I look forward to re-imagining education and rallying education champions as we work to make improvements to our state’s educational system.” Since late 2015, Corbett has spoken to scores of local business-oriented groups (Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, or Farm Bureau chapters) in 55 counties as of last December.

The landing page of Engage Iowa’s website now advertises a livestream of Corbett’s forthcoming speech. He will promote a new “research-based teacher compensation plan” and discuss “opportunities that the state needs to address” in light of the new collective bargaining law, which could profoundly affect public schools and teachers. The full plan will go up on the think tank’s website after the May 1 Rotary event.

Corbett also has a new book coming out, which sounds like a case to Iowa voters, judging by the blurb on the Barnes and Noble website (emphasis added):

“Beyond Promises” is a memoir of sorts by Ron Corbett, who became the youngest speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives and who now is finishing up his eighth year as mayor of Iowa’s second largest city, Cedar Rapids. In the late 1990s, Corbett was considered a possible Republican candidate for Congress or governor. Then he surprised many and resigned from the Legislature so he wouldn’t have to spend so much time away from home and his growing family. He headed the local Chamber of Commerce for six years, a period in which he led a community campaign to rebuild schools, another to redevelop the Cedar Rapids riverfront and a third that brought professional management to Cedar Rapids city government. Corbett’s tenure as Cedar Rapids mayor coincided with the city’s recovery from a devastating flood in 2008, the costliest natural disaster in Iowa history. Can someone who was a leading Republican voice in much of Iowa reclaim statewide prominence and be elected governor? In 2017, that’s the elephant in the room-the unstated question lingering in the backdrop of “Beyond Promises.” This book is Corbett’s first-person account of where he came from and what shaped him, as well as a chronicle of doing, not simply promising.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has a big head start on fundraising and will have more establishment support in next year’s Republican primary, as the sitting governor–or acting governor, to be more precise. But Corbett sounds ready to take on this challenge, and the book title Beyond Promises hints at a possible line of attack. The Branstad/Reynolds administration hasn’t accomplished any of the four key goals promised during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign: creating 200,000 new jobs, reducing the cost of government by 15 percent, increasing family incomes by 25 percent, and having the “best schools in the nation.”

This year’s severe budget shortfall could also create an opening for Corbett to argue that Branstad and Reynolds mismanaged the state’s finances, compared to the period when he was Iowa House speaker. If revenues fall well below projections again during the coming fiscal year, as former Iowa revenue estimator Jon Muller considers likely, Reynolds may be forced to enact large, disruptive spending cuts in early 2018, as happened this year.

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Pat Grassley could be biggest winner if Bill Northey moves to USDA

A potential federal job for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey may provide a stepping stone for State Representative Pat Grassley.

Northey discussed ethanol policy at the White House on Tuesday during a round-table meeting with President Donald Trump and newly-confirmed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Reports of the event fueled speculation that Northey may soon move to a position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Speaking to Iowa reporters yesterday, Northey emphasized that no job offer is on the table but said of Perdue, “I certainly look forward to working with him. I don’t know what role that might be. […] I certainly would love to work with him as Iowa Secretary of Ag. If there’s another job offered, I’d be very willing to consider that as well.”

Trump put Iowa’s own Sam Clovis in charge of handling USDA appointments in January, after Clovis had served as his surrogate in some agricultural policy discussions during the campaign.

Northey has not clarified whether he plans to seek a fourth term as secretary of agriculture in 2018. He had been widely expected to run for governor next year but ruled that out immediately after Governor Terry Branstad agreed to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

If Northey resigns before the end of his term, Iowa law calls for the governor to appoint a replacement to serve until the next election. The last time that process came into play, Branstad named Mary Mosiman as state auditor in 2013. She was unchallenged for the GOP nomination for that office the following year.

I would expect Grassley to lobby Branstad–or Kim Reynolds, if she is acting as governor by that time–for the secretary of agriculture position. The job would be a good way to increase his statewide profile with a view to running for his grandfather’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022. The elder Grassley wasn’t subtle about lobbying for Northey to get the top USDA job, presumably to clear a path for his grandson.

First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, the younger Grassley just completed his second year leading the House Appropriations Committee. He had previously chaired the House Agriculture Committee for three years and the Economic Growth/Rebuild Iowa Committee for two years before that.

I enclose below the official bios for Northey and Pat Grassley. Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson posted the audio of Northey’s comments about a possible USDA position.

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Stand strong

Andrew Isaacson provides another look at teacher contract negotiations under Iowa’s new collective bargaining law. See also Randy Richardson’s recent commentary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

On February 17th, 2017, Iowa’s 43-year-old collective bargaining law was gutted by the Republican-controlled legislature. The new law has created deep confusion and uncertainty for over 180,000 public sector workers. In Iowa’s public schools, this confusion affects union and non-union employees, administrators, students and the communities that are served by our schools.

I am a field representative for the Iowa State Education Association, the union representing professional educators in nearly every local school district across the state. My work is focused in 17 locals where I concentrate on assisting members with professional issues that may arise. I have heard two requests from those around me. Does the administration truly understand the impact of the new law, and what do we do next? I am going to address both.

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