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Iowa GOP

Weekend open thread: Iowa Freedom Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 24, 2015 at 11:40:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Many prospective presidential candidates are speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit today. I'll update this post later with clips and highlights.

An MSNBC story on Representative Steve King (IA-04) made a splash yesterday with this revelation:

King is not above gloating. His staff kept a running list of some 12-16 prominent Republicans who've leveled personal criticisms against him. The congressman said he went over it himself the other day, just for old time's sake.

"Their agenda [on immigration] has been marginalized," a smiling King told msnbc. "Mine's been strengthened."

True, but that's to the long-term detriment of the country and the Republican Party.

Who do you think is on King's enemies list? Probably not many Iowans, aside from Doug Gross.

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Iowa caucus discussion thread: Romney delusions edition

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jan 13, 2015 at 21:35:23 PM CST

It's been a while since we had a new thread for discussing the next Iowa caucus campaign. Most of the action lately has been on the Republican side, but any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread. Here are some links to get the conversation started.

Mitt Romney confirmed last week that he may launch a third campaign for the presidency, even though he had previously ruled out another bid on many occasions. He leads some early polls of Republicans, but with 20 percent support or less--not impressive for someone with his level of name recognition. I can't imagine why Republicans would ever nominate him again, or how anyone in his inner circle can believe he has a chance. Maggie Haberman and James Hohmann shed some light on that subject in "The selling of Mitt 3.0," which you should read in full. After the jump I've enclosed a few excerpts from that piece and from John Dickerson's report for Slate. Apparently some people believe that with better messaging and no incumbent president to face, Romney has a decent shot. Sounds delusional to me. Romney still has all the baggage from his last campaign. His dire predictions about the economy have proven false. Surely many of his donors and grassroots supporters will be looking for a new candidate, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or even former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Maybe The Onion was right after all in this 2012 report: "Mitt Romney Terrified What Will Happen If He Ever Stops Running for President."

Also on the establishment wing of the GOP, Jeb Bush has stepped down from various corporate and non-profit boards and started raising money for his new leadership PAC. Bush will have a well-funded campaign and is more electable than many of the other potential candidates, but I don't see him as a strong contender for the Iowa caucuses. The four issues Eric Pianin identified here (Common Core, immigration, taxes, and Obamacare) will all be deal-breakers for the conservative activists who tend to show up on caucus night.  

Seeking to cash in early on anti-Jeb sentiment, some conservatives have formed a PAC and created an "EndJeb2016" website. Sounds like a fundraising and list-building scheme to me (a la Ready for Hillary), as opposed to an effort to run a real campaign against Bush in the GOP primaries.

Romney's 2012 running mate Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said this week that he will not seek the presidency in 2016. He would be a fool to try when the field is already crowded, and he can afford to wait another four or eight years.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee quit hosting his weekly show on Fox News, saying he can't rule out another presidential bid and will make a final decision this spring. Huckabee has a huge grassroots following in Iowa, and his entry to the race would greatly complicate matters for the likes of former Senator Rick Santorum or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Santorum is promising to run "a very, very different candidacy than the last time around," but for quite some time, many of his Iowa supporters have been looking at fresher faces like Ted Cruz or Ben Carson. Craig Robinson described Huckabee as the "first love" of Iowa social conservatives. Jamie Johnson, who worked on Santorum's 2012 campaign here, told David Weigel last week,

"I can tell you, I took Rick Santorum across the state three years ago," Johnson says. "People loved Huckabee. They liked Santorum. There was never a heart connection between them and Santorum the way there'd been for Huckabee."

Jindal was just in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to meet privately with pastors. I can't see him putting together a winning campaign in Iowa or anywhere else. Why should people support him when he's not even popular in his (conservative) home state?

Ben Carson was caught plagiarizing part of his book America the Beautiful. He is working to "rectify the situation." My guess is that few Iowa Republicans will care about this ethical lapse.

My pick to win the Iowa caucuses, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has selected a likely campaign manager and will soon launch some kind of PAC.  GOP activists here will appreciate that Walker took on public sector unions, refused to expand Medicaid, and doesn't support comprehensive immigration reform. But they won't react well if they learn that he put the brakes on efforts to pass a "right to work" law.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Senator Rand Paul hired a presidential campaign manager this week. I still think he will bail out of the race in time to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Kentucky law doesn't allow him to be on the ballot for two offices in the same primary election.

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Iowa GOP will continue straw poll fundraiser

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 10, 2015 at 21:21:25 PM CST

The Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee voted unanimously today to hold a "straw poll" fundraiser next August, as has occurred every year before the Iowa caucuses since 1979. The date and location will be announced later; the three most likely venues are the Iowa State University campus in Ames, the Farm Progress Show in Boone, and the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

I've enclosed the official Iowa GOP statement after the jump. Note that it identifies former Republican presidential nominees George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and Mitt Romney as past winners of the straw poll, but does not mention Michele Bachmann, who won the 2011 straw poll and went on to finish fifth on caucus night. O. Kay Henderson posted the audio from the committee deliberations and vote. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann emphasized that Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is strongly supportive of Iowa's first in the nation status, and said the straw poll will not jeopardize that role.

Shortly after the 2012 presidential election, Governor Terry Branstad declared that "the straw poll has outlived its usefulness." That's easy for him to say when he is able to raise millions of dollars through other events. There's no way the Iowa GOP would fail to hold some kind of statewide fundraiser featuring as many presidential candidates as possible. Continuing the straw poll element will increase the national media's interest in the event.

Speaking to State Central Committee members after today's vote, Kaufmann thanked Branstad, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Representative Steve King for their feedback on the straw poll. He added that Branstad had offered to help the party secure presidential candidates' participation if the straw poll continues. Some analysts have speculated that certain candidates would skip the fundraiser, either because the event is seen to skew toward social conservative activists, or simply to save money. (Texas Governor Rick Perry joined the presidential race shortly after the Ames straw poll.) Kaufmann said today that if some candidates decide not to participate, "I can guarantee that RPI will maintain its strict neutrality policy whether or not that candidate attended the Straw Poll or not."

During today's meeting, several State Central Committee members praised the straw poll's role in giving every presidential candidate, not just well-funded ones, an opportunity to address activists from all over Iowa. A few also favorably cited the straw poll's function in "winnowing the field." Sam Brownback ended his presidential campaign soon after the 2007 straw poll, and Tim Pawlenty did the same soon after finishing a distant third at the 2011 event. I suspect that this year, presidential candidates will not invest as much money in winning the straw poll, nor will they over-react to a less than stellar showing. Bachmann started fading almost immediately after winning the 2011 straw poll. By the time the Iowa caucuses rolled around, Republicans had cycled through three more front-runners (Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich), before Rick Santorum surged to finish in a near-tie with Romney and Ron Paul. According to some reports, Pawlenty regretted dropping out of that race so early.

Any comments about the next Republican presidential campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Passages

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jan 04, 2015 at 07:00:00 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo passed away on New Year's Day. He was a hero to many liberal Democrats during the 1980s, thanks to the policies he promoted in New York and especially his legendary keynote address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. I've posted the video after the jump, along with some excerpts from the full text and from obituaries. It has been ranked the 11th best American political speech of the 20th century.

I was unable to watch Cuomo's keynote live, because I spent July 1984 at summer camp. But listening to it this week brought back many emotions. Liberals felt discouraged and embattled during the Reagan years. Cuomo gave voice to those frustrations. He focused on economic inequality in particular: "There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit in your shining city. In fact, Mr. President [...] you ought to know that this nation is more a tale of two cities than it is just a shining city on a hill." Cuomo's words speak to me more than anything I've ever heard from Barack Obama, including the "Yes We Can" speech and his vaunted 2004 DNC address.  

By the way, this line from Cuomo's speech is as true now as it was 30 years ago: "Now we're proud of this diversity as Democrats. We're grateful for it. We don't have to manufacture it the way the Republicans will next month in Dallas, by propping up mannequin delegates on the convention floor."

Only on reading Cuomo's obituaries did I learn that in September 1984, he spoke at Notre Dame University and explained why a devout Catholic could support a woman's legal right to an abortion. The full transcript from that speech is here. I've posted excerpts below.

Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Art Neu passed away on January 2. After Governor Bob Ray and Congressman Jim Leach, Neu was Iowa's most prominent moderate Republican of the 1970s and 1980s. I enclose below a few comments on his passing.

Having been raised by a "Rockefeller Republican," I remember when moderates were a real force within the Iowa GOP. Now there is not a single pro-choice Republican in our state's legislature, and only a handful of elected Iowa GOP officials accept marriage equality. In recent years, Neu made headlines primarily when breaking ranks with the conservatives who now dominate his party. He opposed the campaign to recall three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010 and endorsed Christie Vilsack for Congress over GOP incumbent Steve King. Neu caucused for Mitt Romney in January 2012 but said he would vote for Barack Obama in the general election, in part because of the abortion issue.  

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50 "most wanted" Iowa Republican discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 21, 2014 at 20:45:00 PM CST

Following up on last week's look at "most wanted" Iowa Democrats, Jennifer Jacobs wrote a feature for today's Sunday Des Moines Register on "50 of Iowa's makers and shakers for the Republican presidential caucuses." Any comments about the list or GOP politics in general are welcome in this thread.

It seems like Jacobs couldn't decide whether she was making a list of the 50 most influential Iowa Republicans, or the people who will be most sought out by presidential candidates. A lot of names in the top ten will almost certainly not endorse any candidate before the Iowa caucuses (Governor Terry Branstad, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann, Branstad's chief of staff Matt Hinch). For that reason, I expect some of the presidential campaigns to do far more courting of donors and activists who are lower down on Jacobs' list. Big money men (they are all men) who will be highly sought after include Kyle Krause, Pete Brownell, Bruce Rastetter, Gary Kirke, Jim Cownie, David Oman, and Robert Haus.

I was surprised Jacobs put David Kochel and Sara Craig Gongol so far down the list at numbers 36 and 39, respectively. Not only were they deeply involved in Romney's 2012 campaign in Iowa, millions of dollars passed through dark money groups those two ran during this year's U.S. Senate race. To my mind, they will be among the go-to Iowa Republicans for people who want to slime a less-preferred candidate before the caucuses, but don't want their fingerprints on the job. Kochel and Craig aren't shy about skating close to the edge when it comes to federal rules designed to ban coordination between campaigns and outside groups making independent media expenditures.

I was also surprised Jacobs left out talk radio host Steve Deace. Along with Sam Clovis and a few leaders of megachurches, he will be a loud voice in the Iowa GOP's social conservative wing, and I'm sure several presidential candidates will work hard to win his endorsement.

UPDATE: I thought it was strange that former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants made Jacobs' list--he hasn't been speaker since 2006, and he retired from the legislature in 2010. James Lynch pointed out that it's even more odd for Rants to be there, given that Jacobs did not mention current Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix. Paulsen endorsed Newt Gingrich shortly before the 2012 caucuses. Dix did not endorse any of the contenders.

SECOND UPDATE: Shane Vander Hart commented n the Jacobs list at Caffeinated Thoughts. I largely agree with his take, especially this part:

Being an effective campaign staffer doesn't (necessarily) equal influence. [...] There are some people who are on this list who are great at the work that they do.  Tim Albrecht is an effective communications/PR guy, Phil Valenziano, Grant Young, they are great, hardworking campaign staffers, but influencers?  That can be debated and it depends on how you define influence and/or who the target of the influence is.  
 
Vander Hart also pointed out that WHO radio host Jan Mickelson was left off the list, even though he has a large audience around the state: "Mickelson doesn't endorse, but he is a great conduit to grassroots Republicans and candidates need to shoot straight with him (ask Mitt Romney)."  
Discuss :: (7 Comments)

New Iowa caucus discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 03, 2014 at 12:55:57 PM CST

It's been a few weeks since Bleeding Heartland posted a thread for discussing the Iowa caucuses. Any thoughts about presidential candidates in either party are welcome here.

As usual, the latest national polling shows no real competition for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. Contrary to what you may have read in some strange post-election analysis, Clinton seems set to cruise in the Iowa caucuses too. Republicans appear to be trying out a new talking point against the Democratic front-runner: she allegedly makes "rock star demands" before speaking engagements. Peter Holley posted a funny comparison of Clinton's demands to those of "actual rock stars."

Everyone on the Iowa GOP's State Central Committee has signed a pledge not to publicly endorse any candidate during the next Iowa caucus campaign. The goal is to convince all candidates and the media that the game is not rigged, and everyone can compete here on a level playing field.

So far I haven't seen any indication that any Republican contender might skip the caucuses. Iowans have had tons of opportunities to see potential presidential candidates these last few months. The latest conservative sensation, Dr. Ben Carson, was just in Des Moines for the FAMiLY Leader's big fall fundraiser.

The more "moderate" or "establishment" contenders seem eager to compete in Iowa too. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came to the state twice shortly before the election, and pulled off a truly epic pander on "Black Friday" by vetoing a bill that would have banned gestation crates for pigs. Never mind that more than 90 percent of New Jersey residents back the bill, which passed both chambers of the legislature with huge majorities. Governor Terry Branstad was pleased, as were the Iowa Pork Producers and the Iowa Farm Bureau. In an editorial I've excerpted after the jump, one local newspaper concluded that "New Jersey is already in Christie's rearview mirror." I think other aspects of Christie's record will be a deal-breaker for Iowa conservatives, but maybe if the field is fractured he could sneak into the top three here.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Rand Paul confirmed through a spokesman this week that he will run for re-election to the Senate in 2016. The staffer insisted that Paul could still run for president if he chooses to do so. Not under current Kentucky law, he can't. And since Democrats held their majority in the lower chamber of that state's legislature, the law is unlikely to be changed for Paul's convenience. Going to court to challenge the law is probably a dead end, since most states prohibit candidates from appearing on the ballot for two offices at once. Local journalist Sam Youngman goes through some possible scenarios here.

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Rest in peace, Dwayne Alons

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 30, 2014 at 19:40:00 PM CST

State Representative Dwayne Alons passed away last night after a battle with kidney cancer, Iowa House Republicans announced today. First elected to the state legislature in 1998, Alons represented a staunchly Republican northwest Iowa district for eight terms and was unopposed in this year's election.

A longtime farmer and retired brigadier general with the Iowa Air National Guard, Alons chaired the Iowa House Veterans Affairs Committee during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions. This year the state legislature passed and Governor Terry Branstad signed into law several bills designed to benefit veterans and encourage them to settle in Iowa.

Among many conservatives in the Iowa House Republican caucus, Alons stood out for his steadfast belief in prioritizing social issues such as opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights. In June 2010, he entered unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats' name in nomination for lieutenant governor, saying he was "speaking for a grassroots effort that has been going on since the beginning of Bob's campaign." Alons was one of five Iowa House Republicans to file articles of impeachment in 2011 against Iowa Supreme Court justices who concurred in the Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage. He repeatedly co-sponsored and tried to pass "personhood" bills that would ban abortion in all circumstances. Earlier this month, Vander Plaats' organization The FAMiLY Leader gave Alons its first annual "Family Champion Award," saying in its official statement, "When it comes to championing pro-family values in Iowa, nobody has stood stronger, longer, and with such grace as Dwayne."

Since Alons was just elected to another term, a special election will be needed to choose a new representative in Iowa House district 4, covering most of Sioux County (a detailed map is at the end of this post). Governor Branstad will likely set a date for that election in the coming week, and the election will probably happen sometime in January. The only real competition will be at the GOP nominating convention, since the area Alons represented is the most heavily Republican of the 100 state House districts, with nearly ten times as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

After the jump I've posted a selection of tributes from Alons' colleagues. I will continue to update as needed.  

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20 Iowa House races to watch tonight

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 19:12:11 PM CST

Thanks to Iowa's non-partisan redistricting process, we have an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts. In any given general election, depending on candidate recruitment, between one dozen and two dozen of the 100 Iowa House districts could be up for grabs. Democrats and Republicans spend big money on a much smaller number of districts; this year, only seven Iowa House races involved a large amount of television advertising. But the parties and candidates invest in direct mail and/or radio commercials in many more places than that.

Republicans go into election day favored to hold their Iowa House majority, which now stands at 53 seats to 47. Carolyn Fiddler has pegged seven "districts to watch" at her Statehouse Action blog, and in September, the Des Moines Register's Jason Noble discussed five districts he viewed as "key to Iowa House chamber control." I see the playing field as much larger.

Follow me after the jump to review 20 Iowa House seats that will determine control of the chamber for the next two years.

Caveat: most years, there's at least one shocking result in an Iowa House district neither party had their eye on. I'm thinking about Tami Weincek defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent in Waterloo in 2006, Kent Sorenson defeating a Democratic incumbent in Warren County in 2008, three Democratic state representatives who had run unopposed in 2008 losing in 2010, and Democrat Daniel Lundby taking out the seemingly safe Republican Nick Wagner in the Linn County suburbs in 2012. Wagner had run unopposed in the previous election.

So, while I don't expect any of the "favored" seats discussed below to change hands, I would not rule out a surprise or two. That would be excellent news for the stealth challenger's party.

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Here comes the Republican PC brigade

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Nov 02, 2014 at 20:07:56 PM CST

Iowa Republicans are up in arms today on social media, outraged that retiring Senator Tom Harkin said this about Joni Ernst's campaign commercials (via Andrew Kaczynski):

"And there's sort of this sense that, 'Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice.'"

"Well I gotta to thinking about that. I don't care if she's as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she's wrong for the state of Iowa."

To hear Republicans tell it, that is the most offensive comment ever.

People who oppose equal pay and longer paid parental leave for working women, who would force women to continue unwanted pregnancies, who think women's employers should be able to veto insurance coverage of birth control, are in no position to play "PC police."

Harkin's meaning was clear: Ernst's advertising has promoted her as appealing, while mostly avoiding substantive issues. But no matter how nice she may be or may appear in her own marketing, she supports policies that are wrong for Iowa.

By the way, Harkin has a perfect voting record on women's rights issues and has always supported equal pay for women as well as reproductive rights and access to family planning. Republican hero Senator Chuck Grassley has opposed all of those policies at virtually every turn.

UPDATE: Inadvertently confirming that she wants this election to be about anything but substantive issues, Ernst went on Fox News Monday to distort what Harkin said:

"I was very offended that Senator Harkin would say that. I think it's unfortunate that he and many of their party believe that you can't be a real woman if you're conservative and you're female," she told Fox News. "Again, I am greatly offended about that."

Of course, Harkin neither said nor implied anything about a "real woman" not being conservative. He said Ernst supports policies that are wrong for Iowa. And as @SusaninIowa pointed out, it's telling that Ernst wasn't offended to have her voting record compared to Bachmann's.

There was no need for Harkin to apologize for his remarks on Monday.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Republicans warning Iowa Facebook users: We'll know who "voted GOP"

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Nov 01, 2014 at 09:09:59 AM CDT

Political parties and outside groups are increasingly using tactics known as "vote-shaming" as a way to get unreliable voters to participate in the midterm election. Evidence suggests that "voter report cards" and similar techniques based on peer pressure can increase turnout.

Judd Legum reported for Think Progress yesterday that the Republican National Committee is taking this approach to a new and deeply dishonest level.

Screenshots of Facebook ads, promoted by the official Facebook page of the Republican National Committee feature an ominous message: "NOTICE: All Voting Is Public." The ad tell voters that "In a few months, Iowa will release the list of individual who voted in this election." Most troublingly, the ad includes an [aerial] view of a neighborhood with checkmarks indicating that "These People Voted GOP."

Click through to view a screenshot of these Facebook ads. Five houses on the same street in what looks like a wealthy suburban area have check marks near a badge reading "THESE PEOPLE VOTED GOP." The one house marked with an "X" is labeled, "DIDN'T VOTE DON'T LET THIS BE YOU."

Anyone can purchase a voter file from the Iowa Secretary of State's Office that shows who has cast ballots in any recent election. But as Republicans know very well, that information does not reveal how any given individual voted. The Facebook ad is crafted carefully: text the RNC posted above its photo refers accurately to how "Iowa will release the list of individuals who voted in this election." But the misleading graphics in the photo ("THESE PEOPLE VOTED GOP") are more eye-catching.

It's not the biggest lie Iowa Republicans have been pushing this year for political gain, but how disgraceful to stoke fears that neighbors may know whether you voted for the "right" candidates. No wonder the Iowa GOP did not respond to Legum's request for comment.

I'm interested to know how many states the RNC is targeting with these Facebook ads.

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Three things that are not plagiarism

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 29, 2014 at 15:35:00 PM CDT

2014 is shaping up to be the year of idiotic plagiarism accusations in political campaigns. Here's a good example of real plagiarism: "Senator John Walsh of Montana took most of a 2007 final paper required for his master's degree from the United States Army War College from other sources without proper attribution."

In contrast, these common political actions are not plagiarism:

1. Having boilerplate language on a campaign website.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has alleged in a television commercial that IA-03 candidate Staci Appel was "caught plagiarizing 20 times." No, an early version of her campaign website included political statements about the minimum wage and other issues that were similar to other Democratic campaign websites. That is no different from dozens of Republican candidates parroting the same talking points about how the tax code should be "flatter, fairer, and simpler," or responding to a question about climate change with identical "I'm not a scientist" rhetoric.

2. Introducing similar or companion legislation.

Today the Republican Party of Iowa is pushing a bogus story about Bruce Braley "plagiarizing" a bill by Senator Harry Reid. Members of Congress introduce companion legislation to bills from the other chamber all the time. Republicans in dozens of state legislatures introduce bills that are taken verbatim from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) drafts.

3. Sending out a newsletter composed largely by staff.

Today Andrew Kaczynski and Ilan Ben-Meir reported for Buzzfeed, "Passages of local paper pieces under [Joni] Ernst's name appear to have been copied word-for-word from templates sent as guidelines to Republican members of the Iowa Senate." What they describe is standard operating procedure for Iowa lawmakers in both parties. While some representatives and senators write their own weekly newsletters, many others rely on text prepared by legislative staff. Sometimes local newspapers will reproduce all or part of those newsletters. I don't consider that "plagiarism."

Some days it's hard to see how our political discourse could get any more stupid or dishonest.

P.S. Speaking of dishonest, look how Joni Ernst's hired gun Daid Kochel re-tweeted my comment about common practice in the Iowa legislature, just minutes after he pushed the Iowa GOP's bogus plagiarism claims about Braley's bill.

UPDATE: Political reporter Gavin Aronsen comments, "Not sure I agree on point 3, once it's printed in a newspaper. Editors should reject that if it's not words of stated author." Point taken. But I blame lazy editors desperate for copy for that mistake, not politicians. Newspapers should not run a bulletin under an elected official's byline if other lawmakers sent out virtually identical text.

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Iowa House Republican candidate James Butler has history of abuse, misconduct

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 22, 2014 at 07:35:07 AM CDT

Yesterday the Iowa Democratic Party published online several disturbing documents about James Butler, the Republican nominee in Iowa House district 26. Butler narrowly won a GOP primary and faces first-term Democratic State Representative Scott Ourth. The seat covers most of Warren County, including the cities of Indianola and Carlisle (a detailed map is after the jump). House district 26 is one of central Iowa's most politically balanced state legislative districts. As of October 2014, it contained 6,421 active registered Democrats, 6,802 Republicans, and 7,046 no-party voters.

Before the primary, I didn't hear much about Butler beyond the information in his official bio, which highlighted his career with the Des Moines Police Department. This summer, the Republican Butler defeated in the primary, Eric Durbin, flirted with running for House district 26 as an independent, and I saw some grumbling on social media about Butler's past. I dismissed that chatter as likely to be sour grapes coming from Durbin's supporters.

The official documents uploaded yesterday by the Iowa Democratic Party shocked me. First, a court order of protection that Butler's ex-girlfriend received in 2005 details physical abuse and threats by the police officer. Second, a lawsuit filed by apparently the same woman against Butler, which details further abuse, harassment, and threats, including violation of the no-contact order. Butler allegedly told the woman there was no point in calling law enforcement because he was a police officer. Third, Civil Service Commission and Polk County District Court documents related to Butler's brief suspension from the Des Moines police over an incident in 1997, when he was working as an off-duty police officer at a convenience store. The Civil Service Commission and later the district court judge validated Butler's suspension over severe misconduct.

As far as I'm concerned, that kind of record should be disqualifying in a candidate for political office. How is it possible the public is only now hearing about Butler's background, two weeks before the election and nearly a month after early voting began? The Des Moines Register ran a brief story about Butler's candidacy in March, based on his press release. Just this week, the paper ran a short profile of Butler as part of its "meet the candidate" series, again using information supplied by the candidate. Maybe I'm naive, but I would have thought the Register would be checking court records and public documents for mentions of state legislative candidates. I also would have expected Butler's GOP primary opponent to have brought some of this information to light.

UPDATE: I forgot to raise another question: why was Butler able to remain a police officer with this kind of record?

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Who would joke about feeding people into farm machinery?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 21:04:49 PM CDT

Besides a sociopath, that is. The answer is Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, speaking at a campaign event yesterday.

"Do you know how many lawyers it takes to grease a combine? Only one but you gotta feed him in real slow."

According to Kathie Obradovich, the crowd of about 50 people in Boone found this quip funny, along with State Representative Chip Baltimore's follow-up crack about seeing trial lawyers on combines in the countryside. Obradovich added that in her view, the governor's joke was "a groaner, not to mention in poor taste." That's putting it mildly. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch was more in the ballpark when he called Branstad's comments "offensive and sickening."

In a statement Hatch said "a governor should be focused on promoting farm safety during harvest and not making offensive jokes that play on the tragedies all too common with farm machinery."

I'm sure Branstad wouldn't laugh at any tragedy happening to a "real Iowan." He just enjoys portraying attorneys as lower life forms.

This lawyer's daughter is mortified that any public official, let alone the most senior person in state government, would think it's funny to joke about grinding up people you don't like. I get it: half the Iowa GOP campaign strategy this year is stirring up cultural resentment against "elitist trial lawyer" Bruce Braley. He supposedly doesn't represent "Iowa values," unlike Joni Ernst, the "farm girl" and Sunday school teacher whose husband cracked a joke about trying to murder his ex-wife.

If any Iowa Democratic official or candidate made a self-styled humorous appeal for violence, I'd be the first to call them out. Don't hold your breath waiting for some Republican to condemn our governor's sick sense of humor.  

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Iowa candidate web videos need "paid for" attribution statements

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 21, 2014 at 17:15:16 PM CDT

Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Executive Director Megan Tooker has determined that state law requiring "paid for by" attribution lines for political advertising also applies to videos posted on free websites such as YouTube. David Chung, a member of the Republican Party of Iowa's State Central Committee, had filed an ethics complaint against Brad Anderson, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. (Chung is from Cedar Rapids, as is Anderson's GOP opponent Paul Pate.) Anderson's television commercial contains the standard attribution line, but some of his web videos did not. After the jump I've posted the relevant portion of Iowa Code.

Tooker informed Anderson that in her opinion, campaign videos available online should also include a "paid for" statement. Anderson's campaign immediately altered the videos to comply. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register, "So long as Anderson republishes the videos with appropriate attribution statements or publishes a corrective notice in the newspaper, he will not face a fine or penalty."

Responding to my request for comment, the Anderson campaign noted, "Although state law is ambiguous related to requiring disclaimers on free YouTube videos, in the abundance of caution we have added disclaimers to all of our YouTube videos and will continue to moving forward."

In a press release yesterday, Iowa GOP Co-Chairman Cody Hoefert thundered, "we now learn that Brad Anderson either ignored Iowa's election laws or does not believe they apply to him. Either way, this only goes to underscore the fact that he is not someone Iowans can trust to uphold the integrity of their elections." News flash for Hoefert: the Anderson campaign was able to point to many web videos that lacked "paid for" statements while promoting the Iowa GOP and/or Republican candidates and office-holders. For instance, Governor Terry Branstad's campaign produced a video featuring Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds in order to drum up 2014 Iowa caucus attendance. In that video, she urged supporters to help elect Republicans up and down the ticket in 2014. Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has also promoted his candidacy through web videos without attribution statements. The Iowa GOP itself produced a video promoting State Auditor Mary Mosiman without any attribution statement.

Obviously, Chung and the Iowa GOP were only playing out a stunt to gain an edge for Pate in what looks like a close contest for secretary of state. Nevertheless, it's useful for Tooker to clarify that this portion of state law applies to web videos as well as to television commercials.  

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Fired Iowa Senate Republican staffer files sexual harassment lawsuit

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Oct 17, 2014 at 12:30:00 PM CDT

Former Iowa Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court yesterday, claiming she was subjected to "sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act." Anderson served as communications director for the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from February 2008 to the middle of May 2013. Bleeding Heartland covered the circumstances surrounding her firing here and here. Anderson filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission last year. She is suing the State of Iowa, the Iowa Senate, the Iowa Senate Republican caucus, Iowa Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, Iowa Senate Republican senior staffer Eric Johansen, and Ed Failor, Jr., the primary advisor to Dix since shortly after Dix was chosen to lead the GOP caucus in late 2012.

William Petroski's report for the Des Moines Register includes a link to the 20-page court filing, which can be downloaded as a pdf file. Pages 3 through 7 list many incidents supporting Anderson's claims about a hostile work environment and sexual harassment, starting in 2010. Several current and former lawmakers are named. The lawsuit paraphrases inappropriate comments by former GOP Senators Shawn Hamerlinck and Merlin Bartz. Senator Tim Kapucian is said to have laughed at an unnamed senior analyst's inappropriate comments about a "loose" female Democratic senator. Senators Joni Ernst and Sandy Greiner allegedly "did and said nothing" after witnessing "sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior exhibited by their male colleagues." Ernst denied that charge in a written statement, which I've enclosed after the jump. She suggested Anderson was perhaps "being exploited ahead of the election."

Speaking to the Des Moines Register, Anderson's attorney Mike Carroll

denied any political motivation behind the timing of the lawsuit. He said that before a lawsuit could be filed, his client had to file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission. The complaint was filed last year. The commission issued a letter in July giving Anderson 90 days to file a lawsuit, and the filing deadline was set to expire Oct. 29, he said.

In her own statement, Anderson said, "As to the suggestions that I am a pawn in a political drama, that is not the case. I am standing up for my rights as an employee; a right to work in a place without inappropriate and discriminatory conduct."

Pages 12 through 17 of the court filing include a memo Anderson handed to Johansen on the morning of May 17, 2013, suggesting that her work was being criticized because she had complained about a "sexually hostile work environment" that "no private sector workplace would tolerate." Later the same day, in Dix's presence, Johansen gave Anderson a choice of resigning or being fired. Pages 17 and 18 list six causes of action under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Anderson is seeking back pay and benefits, compensatory damages, a ruling that her termination was unfair and/or discriminatory, and injunctive relief requiring (among other things) new training procedures for Iowa Senate staffers.

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Republicans running negative radio ads in key Iowa Senate and House races

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 15, 2014 at 13:45:59 PM CDT

Radio commercials appeared in several competitive Iowa Senate districts during the last week of September, coinciding with the start of early voting. This week, the Republican Party of Iowa has launched the first negative radio spots I've heard in state legislative races this year. After the jump I've enclosed the transcript of the ad attacking Chaz Allen, the Democratic candidate in the open Iowa Senate district 15. Allen's own positive ad, which Bleeding Heartland transcribed here, is still in rotation and promotes the former Newton mayor's record of recruiting businesses. The new Republican spot blames Allen for high property taxes that allegedly discouraged companies from coming to Newtown after "Maytag pulled out on Chaz Allen's watch." The ad also plays up Governor Terry Branstad's support for Crystal Bruntz, the Republican candidate in Senate district 15. While the ad asserts that Bruntz "understands job creation," it fails to mention anything substantive she has ever done to create jobs.

In Iowa Senate district 41, a leading pickup opportunity for Democrats, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren's new radio spot highlights flippant and sarcastic responses Siegel mailed in response to a survey Chelgren circulated in 2010. More details on that commercial are after the jump.

In the open Senate district 39, another seat targeted by both parties, a Bleeding Heartland reader tells me that the new Republican radio spot attacks Democratic nominee Kevin Kinney over his support for "Common Core" educational standards. I have not heard the ad yet and would appreciate any further details. It seems like an odd angle for an attack, but I guess Kinney's background as a deputy sheriff and family farmer didn't give them easy targets. Politics-watchers generally believe that education is a campaign issue favoring Democrats. As far as I can tell, fear-mongering over Common Core only resonates with social conservatives who would already be voting for Kinney's opponent, Michael Moore.

I have not yet heard details on radio spots attacking State Senators Daryl Beall or Rita Hart, the Democratic incumbents in Senate districts 5 and 49, respectively. Nor have I heard of any attack ads against three-term Democratic incumbent Amanda Ragan in Senate district 27, although anecdotally, Republicans have supposedly given up on taking back that seat. I always appreciate tips from Bleeding Heartland readers, so please let me know if you've heard radio ads in the Fort Dodge, Clinton, or Mason City area.

In the open Iowa House district 55 (northeast Iowa), Republican Daniel Branhagen started running a commercial this week calling his Democratic opponent Rick Edwards a big spender. I haven't heard attack ads against any Iowa House Democrats yet on Des Moines area radio stations.

Any comments about the state legislative races are welcome in this thread.

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IA-03: Trouble on David Young's right flank (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Oct 14, 2014 at 13:48:07 PM CDT

Prominent central Iowa conservatives are voicing concerns about David Young, the GOP nominee in the third Congressional district. Young can't afford to run too far to the right in his race against former State Senator Staci Appel. He needs to keep the margin close in Polk County, because the Republican voter registration advantage in IA-03 isn't large enough to save him if he gets blown out among suburban moderates. Consequently, Young has taken several middle-of-the-road positions during the general election campaign. During his first debate against Appel, he offered qualified support for a minimum wage increase. Last week, he told the Des Moines Register's editorial board that he favors some form of legal status for some undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Speaking at a health care forum in Des Moines yesterday, Young said the Affordable Care Act is "here to stay," so Congress will "have to work to make it better." Whereas many Republicans have pledged to repeal "Obamacare," Young said he'll "be at the table trying to fix it." That pragmatic stance contradicts his promise in a pre-primary television commercial to make Obamacare disappear.

Although Young has Iowa Right To Life's support for the general election, some "pro-life" activists haven't forgotten that he once told a journalist abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.

Social conservative talk radio host Steve Deace laid out his case against voting for Young in a Facebook post yesterday. I've enclosed excerpts after the jump. Many Iowa Democrats dismiss Deace as irrelevant, but his show is broadcast on two stations in the Council Bluffs area (the second-largest metro in IA-03) and one station in Des Moines. During the next three weeks, you can be sure Deace will urge listeners not to vote for Young.

Casting a protest vote will be easy for right-wing Republicans, because two conservative candidates qualified for the ballot in IA-03. Bleeding Heartland posted background on Libertarian Ed Wright and independent Bryan Jack Holder here.

UPDATE: On October 14, Deace bashed Young on his website and featured on his radio broadcast a segment on "John Boehner's next plan to screw conservatives." Pointing to a blog post claiming the U.S. House speaker wants to expand his majority "so the crazies you hate will be irrelevant" in Congress, Deace commented, "Another reason not to vote for David Young, as if he hasn't provided enough of them already."

SECOND UPDATE: The Iowa Republican publisher Craig Robinson had a go at Young's "schizophrenic" campaign. I've added excerpts at the end of this post.  

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Mitt Romney in Iowa links and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 13, 2014 at 15:10:00 PM CDT

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been campaigning in Iowa yesterday and today with U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst. After the jump I've enclosed excerpts from some of the news coverage of Romney's visit. Free publicity is always helpful in a close election, but I'm not sure Romney can bring any voters who aren't already supporting Ernst into her corner.

Social conservative talk radio host thinks appearing alongside Romney "makes absolutely no sense": "Ernst is being blasted in endless commercials for being a corporate shill, so why bring in to campaign for you a guy Iowans just rejected in the last election as a corporate shill? Ernst already has the moderate, corporatist GOP vote all locked up." He thinks Ernst needs to do more public appearances with solid conservatives. I think that would alienate moderate voters. What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

The Des Moines Register's headline-writers misrepresented a finding from the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News. Among respondents who are "likely voters" in 2014, Romney leads President Barack Obama by 41 percent to 39 percent. The Register's headline on Jennifer Jacobs' article read, "In 2012 re-run, Romney wins." Not really. Not only is that lead within the poll's margin for error, a new presidential election would bring out a presidential-year electorate. This poll sampled likely midterm voters. We know that several Democratic-skewing groups (young people, unmarried women) are less likely to vote in a non-presidential year.

I don't expect Romney to run for president again, but likely future presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio did a "telephone town-hall" with Ernst a few days ago. Past and future presidential candidate Rick Santorum will come to Dubuque and Davenport this week.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that in a separate piece on the latest Selzer poll, Jennifer Jacobs reported that Romney "leads Clinton in 2016 matchup." Sorry, no. The poll shows Romney barely ahead of Hillary Clinton by 44 percent to 43 percent among Iowa respondents considered likely 2014 election voters. That doesn't tell us whether Romney would be ahead among a presidential year Iowa electorate.

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End of the road for opponents of marriage equality? (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 16:15:47 PM CDT

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, justices side-stepped the issue of state bans on same-sex marriage, either by statute or by constitution. Since that time, various U.S. Courts of Appeal have struck down state-level bans, using reasoning similar to the high court's in U.S. v. Windsor. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will not hear appeals of five such rulings. As Adam Liptak reported for the New York Times, the move "may signal the inevitability of a nationwide right to same-sex marriage."

The development, a major surprise, cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Officials in Virginia announced that marriages would start at 1 p.m. on Monday.

The decision to let the appeals court rulings stand, which came without explanation in a series of brief orders, will almost immediately increase the number of states allowing same-sex marriage from 19 to 24, along with the District of Columbia. The impact of the move will in short order be even broader.

Monday's orders let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts with jurisdiction over six other states that ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those appeals courts will almost certainly follow their own precedents to strike down those additional bans as well, meaning the number of states with same-sex marriage should soon climb to 30. [...]

Other appeals courts are likely to rule soon on yet other marriage bans, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. That court has jurisdiction over nine states. If it rules in favor of same-sex marriage, as expected, it is unlikely to enter a stay, and, given Monday's developments at the Supreme Court, there is no particular reason to think the justices will.

It's all over but the shouting. And speaking of shouting, I've enclosed below the reaction to today's news from the FAMiLY Leader organization, which spearheaded the backlash against the Iowa Supreme Court over its 2009 decision in Varnum v Brien. No Iowa Supreme Court justices are up for retention this year. The remaining three justices who were part of the Varnum ruling will be up for retention in 2016: Chief Justice Mark Cady (author of that unanimous decision), Justice Brent Appel, and Justice Daryl Hecht.

The Alliance for Justice has compiled details on every federal court ruling related to marriage equality here. That organization's president, Nan Aron, said in a statement today, "It is disappointing that the Supreme Court declined to take any of the marriage equality cases decided by federal appeals courts.  In 2013, in its decisions on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and on Proposition 8, the Supreme Court began to bend the arc of history toward justice on this issue. By declining to take these cases, the Court passed up an opportunity to finish the job."

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not going to fight against marriage equality in Wisconsin anymore. Accepting reality may work against him if he runs in the 2016 Iowa Republican caucuses.

SECOND UPDATE: I've enclosed below a statement from Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair Cody Hoefert. I am intrigued that Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann doesn't seem interested in speaking out on this issue anymore. In 2011, he voted for a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Kaufmann retired in 2012, and his son Bobby Kaufmann was elected to succeed him in the Iowa House. Bobby Kaufmann declined to co-sponsor a marriage amendment in 2013.  

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Latest Iowa absentee ballot numbers (as of October 5)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 06, 2014 at 09:49:07 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland is updating the early voting numbers (absentee ballots requested and returned) statewide and in each of Iowa's four Congressional districts, based on figures released by the Iowa Secretary of State's Office. Click here for previous tables, which make it easier to spot trends in the numbers.

Since Friday, Republicans cut further into the Democratic advantage in ballot requests, which now stands at just under 37,000 statewide. Democrats claim that the majority of some 44,000 no-party voters who have requested ballots were identified by their organizers. There is no way to independently verify that claim, but it was true in 2012.

Based on turnout the last two midterm elections, the 221,701 Iowans who have requested absentee ballots for this year's election probably account for about 20 percent of all voters who will cast a ballot.

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