ISU president used university plane for personal trips, didn't pay to fix damage

Iowa State University President Steven Leath has flown one of the university’s planes on at least four personal trips, without the apparent knowledge of the official in charge of ISU’s flight program, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on September 23. Leath reimbursed the university for some costs associated with those trips but not for expenses incurred after he damaged one of the planes through pilot error in July 2015.

Although Leath’s use of the plane appears to have violated both ISU policy and state law, Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has already released a statement supporting Leath.

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Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mansfield on Trump's expanded list for SCOTUS

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield is among ten new names on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court appointees, multiple journalists reported today.

Former Governor Chet Culver appointed Mansfield to the Iowa Court of Appeals in 2009. He was a workhorse on that bench, writing some 200 opinions in less than two years. Since Governor Terry Branstad named him to the Iowa Supreme Court in February 2011, Mansfield has been one of the court’s most prolific opinion writers. He is part of a conservative bloc of justices including the other two Branstad most recently appointed.

Mansfield’s judicial philosophy would appeal to many conservatives. He rarely joins what might be called "activist" decisions to overturn state law, administrative rule, or executive body determinations. In this year’s biggest case, Mansfield was part of a 4-3 majority upholding Iowa’s broad ban on voting by people with felony convictions. He has not joined various majority opinions related to juvenile sentencing, including one this year that held "juvenile offenders may not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole" under Iowa’s Constitution. He dissented from a 2014 ruling that allowed a lawsuit against top Branstad administration officials to proceed.

Social conservatives might be encouraged by the fact that three years ago, Mansfield hinted in a one-paragraph concurrence that he does not agree with the legal reasoning underpinning the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 Varnum v Brien decision on marriage equality. However, he has never clarified whether he would have upheld Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act or struck it down on different grounds.

The biggest red flag about Mansfield from a conservative perspective would probably be his decision to join last year’s unanimous ruling to strike down Iowa’s ban on telemedicine for abortion services. When the State Judicial Nominating Commission put Mansfield on the short list for the Iowa Supreme Court in early 2011, some conservatives grumbled that the judge’s wife was an active supporter of Planned Parenthood. Though the telemed abortion decision was grounded in the law and medical facts, critics may view Mansfield as untrustworthy on one of their key priorities for the U.S. Supreme Court: overturning Roe v Wade. I am not aware of Mansfield expressing any public opinion on that landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling.

One other Iowan is on Trump’s long list for the Supreme Court. Judge Steven Colloton of Des Moines, who serves on the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, was one of eleven names the Trump campaign released soon after locking up the GOP nomination. I enclose below more background on Colloton.

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Steve King, champion of integration?

When it comes to racially divisive public statements, few members of Congress are in Representative Steve King’s league, and Donald Trump surpasses every presidential candidate of the last half-century aside from George Wallace. Yet King strongly objects to critics who would portray him or Trump as racist. Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported yesterday on King’s interview with a Fort Dodge-based radio station:

“And now we’ve got the Congressional Black Caucus here in Washington, DC, today will be leading a protest and they have declared Donald Trump to be a racist. Now, why are they the authority on that?” the Iowa congressman said on KVFD AM1400 radio in Iowa. “I call them the self-segregating caucus, and so, they long ago moved away from the integration that we really need in this country.”

Click through to hear the audio clip and read more comments from King. He’s still bent out of shape over African-American journalist April Ryan confronting him in July about his assertion that white people had contributed "more to civilization" than had "other categories of people."

King is uncomfortable with black people calling attention to systemic racism, whether they be farmers who sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture over decades-long discrimination policies or a football player declining to stand during the national anthem. In a classic example of what psychologists call projection or scapegoating, King labels African Americans "divisive" if they want an important historical figure to be represented on currency, and considers public discussion of police misconduct grounded in racism to be "anti-white." Yet he considers it appropriate to display a Confederate flag on his desk in the halls of Congress.

Some Congressional Black Caucus members literally put their lives on the line to integrate public spaces in this country. Yet King would have us believe the caucus is a force of racial divisions because its members object to Trump’s manifold racist comments. King’s remarks to KVFD reminded me of a Gallup poll from the summer of 1963. During that critically important time for the civil rights movement, some 60 percent of respondents nationwide said "mass demonstrations by Negroes" are "more likely to hurt the Negro’s cause for racial equality." Talk about projecting blame and responsibility "towards a target person or group."

Final thought: King posturing as a supporter of "the integration that we really need" will be news to many of his constituents. Iowa’s fourth Congressional district includes many counties with large Latino populations. Those families are keeping schools and local businesses viable in numerous cities and towns. But that hasn’t stopped King from disparaging Spanish-speaking immigrants and their children as drug mules, or from trying to restrict birthright citizenship to exclude children of people who came to this country illegally.

UPDATE: Added below an image King tweeted on September 23, in which references to NFL player Colin Kaepernick and police officers were replaced with "King" and "Muslim" to highlight what King called "the contradictions of political Correctness."

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Quinnipiac finds Trump ahead in Iowa

Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 50 percent to 44 percent in a two-way race, and by 44 percent to 37 percent in a field including Libertarian Gary Johnson (10 percent) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (2 percent), according to the new Quinnipiac survey of 612 likely Iowa voters. Trump has gained ground since last month’s Quinnipiac poll showing a small lead for Clinton in both the two-way and four-way races. The polling memo noted Trump’s 52 percent to 26 percent lead among men, which overcame Clinton’s 47 percent to 37 percent advantage with women. Trump also had higher levels of support among Republican respondents (86 percent) than Clinton did among Democrats (83 percent).

Nuggets from the cross-tabs:

• Independents split 38 percent Trump, 33 percent Clinton, 19 percent Johnson, and 4 percent Stein in a four-way race. Against Clinton alone, Trump led 47 percent to 41 percent among independent respondents.

• As expected, Trump has a big lead among non-college-educated whites: 55 percent to 41 percent in a two-way, 48 percent to 33 percent in a larger field.

• Surprisingly, Trump leads among whites with a college degree (49 percent to 44 percent)

• By self-reported party identification, 33 percent of this poll’s respondents were Republicans, 30 percent Democrats, 33 percent independents, and 5 percent other/don’t know. That party breakdown better reflects the 2012 general electorate in Iowa than did last week’s Monmouth poll.

According to Quinnipiac, its poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points—though that number refers to only one of many potential sources of error in opinion polls. I am seeking further details on Quinnipiac’s likely voter screen, which wasn’t explained in the note on methodology. Nate Cohn’s latest post at the New York Times Upshot blog explained how four different approaches to separating "likely voters" from other poll respondents produced four different results from the same set of interviews with North Carolina voters.

Iowa absentee ballot numbers in the 2016 general election

Early voting was a major factor in Barack Obama’s margin of victory in Iowa four years ago. Although both parties launched their absentee ballot drives a little later this year, Democrats and Republicans will soon be fully engaged in banking as many votes as possible before election day.

I will update this page every weekday with the latest absentee ballot numbers released by the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, presented in two tables. The first shows the number of absentee ballots Iowans have requested, in each of the four Congressional districts and statewide. The second shows the number of absentee ballots county auditors have received from voters, in each Congressional district and statewide. (For now, those numbers are small, because county auditors only just started mailing ballots to voters who don’t live overseas or serve in the military.)

In-person early voting will begin on September 29 at county auditors’ offices. When an Iowan votes early in person, either at the county auditor’s office or at a satellite location, that counts as an absentee ballot requested by the voter and as an absentee ballot received by the auditor on the same day.

You can compare this year’s early vote numbers to the daily charts from the last two election cycles by clicking through to Bleeding Heartland’s archive of absentee ballot totals from 2012 and 2014.

You can find the latest absentee ballot figures in each Iowa House and Iowa Senate district on the Secretary of State’s website.

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