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WHO Radio host Jan Mickelson stands by illegal and illogical immigration plan

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 07:37:24 AM CDT

When life imitates The Onion: a talk radio host with one of Iowa's largest listening audiences believes he has devised the perfect method to drive away immigrants living here without authorization. All we need to do is "put up some signs" warning that after a certain date, people "who cannot demonstrate their legal status" will "become property of the State of Iowa," forced to do labor on behalf of the state.

WHO Radio's Jan Mickelson elaborated on his idea Wednesday in an interview with Media Matters. It's a remarkable read.

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Des Moines Register editors still proud of a reprehensible call

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Aug 17, 2015 at 07:15:00 AM CDT

Scrutinizing the work of government at all levels is one of the media's most important functions. Access to public records is essential for journalists to do that job. The Des Moines Register was right to pursue and review e-mails from former Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Sebring's school district account.

What's not right: the Register's editors acting like their most reprehensible call in recent memory was some kind of muckraking triumph.  

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Long past time for media to stop calling people "illegals"

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 13, 2015 at 12:20:05 PM CDT

Actions can be illegal. People are not illegal. Which is why I was disappointed to see yet another reference to "illegals" in a Radio Iowa headline this week.

The news service has substantial agenda-setting power in the Iowa media world, with more than 50 affiliate stations around the state. Over the years, too many Radio Iowa reports have applied the word "illegal" to people, either in headlines ("Marion Mayor wants police to track down illegals") or when paraphrasing a politician ("[Rick Perry] says the federal resources have to be used in the right way to stop the inflow of illegals"). While Representative Steve King is famous for applying dehumanizing language to people who didn't immigrate through legal channels, that's no excuse for headlines like "Congressman King says Gang of Eight bill is almost complete amnesty for illegals."

Even when the newsmaker used more appropriate language, Radio Iowa has sometimes fallen back on stigmatizing shorthand. Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino spoke about driver's licenses for "foreign nationals," but Radio Iowa's headline read, "DOT won't approve licenses for illegals on deferred action status." When the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa promised to "vigorously pursue all legal options to change" DOT policy, noting that people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status "are authorized to be here by the federal government," Radio Iowa's headline read, "Iowa ACLU will try to overturn DOT's ruling on licenses for illegals."

The latest example involved a story titled, "Senator Grassley wants action on Cuban illegals with criminal records" (a screenshot is after the jump). A few hours after I called attention to the issue, the headline was revised to "Senator Grassley wants action on Cuban 'aliens' with criminal records." Here's hoping Radio Iowa will enact new editorial standards, perhaps drawing on Associated Press or New York Times guidelines for covering such stories.

Note: neither the AP nor the New York Times approves of "undocumented immigrants," a term advocacy groups (and Bleeding Heartland) use regularly. The news organizations prefer descriptive phrasing such as "someone living in a country without legal permission," or "someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization."  

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Satire apparently a difficult concept for Quad Cities tv station WQAD

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 08, 2015 at 15:39:59 PM CDT

First, Representative Steve King absurdly claimed a "strong, Christian lawyer" told him the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage means "you could marry your lawnmower."

In response, Pat Rynard shot a video of himself purportedly attempting to marry his lawnmower. Polk County Recorder Julie Haggerty patiently explained to Rynard why such a marriage would be impossible under the law.

Anyone who watched the video or read the post at Iowa Starting Line would understand Rynard pulled off the stunt to mock King for "insinuating that two loving gay men or women entering into marriage is as bizarre and unnatural as someone marrying their lawnmower."

Anyone, that is, except several journalists at WQAD in the Quad Cities. In a televised segment, they claimed "a man in Des Moines tried to marry his lawnmower."  

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Weekend open thread: Implausible Hillary Clinton narratives edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Aug 02, 2015 at 11:49:58 AM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? Ten days after the New York Times published a train wreck of an exclusive about Hillary Clinton's e-mails, the fallout continues. Kurt Eichenwald walked through many factual errors and "fundamentally deceptive" frames in the report about a "criminal referral" that never existed. The Times' Public Editor Margaret Sullivan dug into how a story "fraught with inaccuracies" ended up on the front page. Matt Purdy, the "top-ranking editor involved with the story," told Sullivan, "We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong." New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet suggested the mistakes "may have been unavoidable."

Really? No chance you got played by "very good sources" who are out to get Hillary Clinton? It wouldn't be the first time. Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made a strong case that the Times fell for a familiar "ploy" of letting partisan anonymous sources "mischaracterize" documents reporters have not seen. The Clinton campaign's official response is devastating, which may be why Baquet refused to publish it.

Some mistakes are inevitable when covering current events on a tight deadline, but thankfully, few political writers will ever commit malpractice on this scale. Aspiring journalists everywhere should study the cautionary tale. I liked Josh Marshall's "thought experiment" for reporters "about to publish a big piece or something a lot rides on":

Pretend that the story blows up in your face. And you have to explain to me or your editor what went wrong. If you're the reporter in that case, you take your lumps but when you have that conversation, you really want to be able to say and explain how you covered every base, checked every box on the list and it still went wrong. When you go through that exercise it often makes you think of some box that hasn't been checked that you really want to have checked if you find yourself in a real version of that hypothetical conversation.

I hope the Times will assign Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt to different beats, because they have lost all credibility to report on Clinton.

This post is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Weekend open thread: ADA anniversary and Iowa caucus polls edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 26, 2015 at 11:55:31 AM CDT

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

The Americans With Disabilities Act took effect 25 years ago this week. How many laws have changed the country for the better as much as Senator Tom Harkin's greatest achievement? The ADA helped millions of people who might have been housebound--like my friend who was able to run errands or take her son to the park, even though she was confined to a wheelchair. Judy Schmidt, who chairs the Iowa Democratic Party's Disability Caucus, shared how the ADA has affected her in a guest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. I've enclosed excerpts after the jump. Bleeding Heartland posted more background and links about the law to mark its 20th anniversary. For the record, Iowa's senior Senator Chuck Grassley also voted for the final version of the ADA, as did most of his fellow Republicans. UPDATE: Added below excerpts from Harkin's guest editorial in the Sunday Des Moines Register.

Donald Trump has led the last five national polls of Republican voters and is rising in stature in Iowa, if you believe the latest surveys of likely GOP caucus-goers. Follow me after the jump for details.

I brought my kids to Bernie Sanders' town-hall in West Des Moines on Friday night. My reflections on that event are at the end of this post.

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Weekend open thread: Hall of Fame and Family Leadership Summit edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 19, 2015 at 11:52:06 AM CDT

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

All five Democratic presidential candidates appeared at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids on Friday night. I've posted below my impressions from the speeches; you can watch the videos on C-SPAN. It's a shame the venue couldn't accommodate more people, because lots of interested Iowa Democrats were unable to get tickets for the event.

Before the Hall of Fame dinner, I spent some time with an old friend who's a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. Huge, as in, she didn't take down her Hillary yard sign until the grass was long enough to need mowing in the spring of 2008. She mentioned to me that she's relieved to see Clinton working hard this year instead of "ignoring" Iowa like last time. When I told my friend that Hillary visited Iowa more than 30 times in 2007, spending all or part of 70 days in the state, she was surprised. I'm amazed by how many Iowans have bought into the media-constructed narrative that Clinton "bombed" in the caucuses because she took the state for granted.

Ten Republican presidential candidates came to Ames on Saturday for the Family Leadership Summit organized by Bob Vander Plaats' FAMiLY Leader organization. C-SPAN posted all of those speeches here. As usual, Donald Trump sucked up most of the oxygen in the room by questioning whether Senator John McCain had been a hero during the Vietnam War. O.Kay Henderson posted the audio at Radio Iowa. Rival presidential candidates with the exception of Ted Cruz rushed to condemn Trump's remarks. Some of the Family Leadership Summit attendees may have been more upset by Trump's comments about his three marriages and his admission that when he's done something wrong, "I don't bring God into that picture."

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Iowans must vote to protect net neutrality, and to keep it working for everyone

by: desmoinesiowa15

Mon May 18, 2015 at 09:29:52 AM CDT

(Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts on federal or state policies. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The FCC's landmark decision in February to protect net neutrality was widely heralded as a victory for most Internet users. The Federal Communications Commission even committed to making America's broadband networks fast, fair, and open. However, as more information became available, it became clear that the FCC's decision to reclassify the Internet as a depression-era utility would make it anything but fair.

Title II was developed for old communication devices, like telephone networks in the 1930s. This regulatory classification is more than 80 years old, and was never intended for the fast-moving, innovative world of Internet and app infrastructure. Title II will re-classify the Internet as a utility, and increase state and local fees for Internet access. Infrastructure issues, when left to Congress to update, become a part of a slower-moving, bureaucratic structure. Upgrades to the Internet happen much faster than upgrades to roads and bridges; it does not make sense to regulate them the same way.

Instead of making sure that the Internet remained open for all, the FCC's decision ensured that low-income and underserved Americans will pay higher rates, making the Internet less accessible. Dozens of groups have spoken out about how Title II regulation will be harmful for small businesses, particularly those owned by minority groups. When chambers of commerce and unions agree that something is harmful, it is generally a good sign that it is time to re-think.

Representatives Blum, Loebsack, Young, and King should follow the lead of the diverse coalition that has spoken out against Title II regulation - including the Communications Workers of America, the NAACP, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the United State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Urban League, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and dozens more - to draft bipartisan legislation that protects all Internet users from high fees and keeps the Internet truly open.  

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The disconnect in the Des Moines Register's coverage of Congress

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 15, 2015 at 11:54:36 AM CDT

An important Congressional vote went unreported in the Des Moines Register this week, despite two lead editorials in the paper within the past month urging Congress to act on that very issue.

The disconnect provides a good example of a problem I flagged in this post about the Des Moines Register's political coverage. Ever since the Register closed its Washington bureau, Iowans are less likely to know what our representatives in Congress are doing on our behalf.  

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One reader's feedback for new Des Moines Register publisher David Chivers

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 05, 2015 at 12:54:44 PM CDT

David Chivers started work yesterday as the Des Moines Register's president and publisher. The Des Moines native comes from a strong background in digital marketing. Speaking to Register employees on the day Gannett announced his hiring, Chivers acknowledged he has a lot to learn about the newspaper and said he welcomed "candid discussions" on how to "push the brand and the business forward."

In that spirit, I offer my thoughts on ways the Register could better serve readers who rely on the paper for political news. Balanced, fact-based reporting is central to the Register's brand as "the newspaper Iowa depends upon." Unfortunately, last year's election coverage hurt the Register's reputation among many politically-engaged Iowans. Acknowledging the problem is essential to avoid compounding the damage during the upcoming Iowa caucus campaign.

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Excessive demands for personal attention hurt the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 08:41:47 AM CDT

Hillary Clinton embarked on a road trip to Iowa immediately after making her campaign official on Sunday. She has several small-scale events scheduled for today and tomorrow in Monticello (Jones County) and Norwalk (Warren County), a sign she is committed to winning over Iowa caucus-goers.

Most politically engaged Iowans look forward to seeing presidential candidates in person during caucus season. We like to hear first-hand where the contenders stand on issues that matter to us. As a group, we are generally willing to give all contenders serious consideration before making up our minds.

Unfortunately, some Democratic activists seem to think that candidates prove their worth in Iowa by fawning over local VIPs. That mentality hurts the Iowa caucuses, especially when pooh-bahs broadcast their sense of entitlement to national reporters covering the campaign.

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Weekend open thread: Ross Paustian "Sex After Sixty" edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 21, 2015 at 15:03:44 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The most important Iowa political story of the week was state Republican leaders hounding consultant Liz Mair out of a job with Scott Walker's PAC. Colin Campbell compiled Mair's tweets about the episode for Business Insider, and they are well worth reading. I'm still annoyed by the collective Republican temper tantrum and the Des Moines Register's pandering.

A different Iowa political event drew even more attention, though, including a segment on ABC's Good Morning America show. The fateful photo of Republican State Representative Ross Paustian might have been a footnote to a long Iowa House debate on a collective bargaining bill. But because the lawmaker was apparently reading a book called Sex After Sixty, the photo went viral and could easily become what Paustian is most remembered for when his political career is over. I enclose below background, Paustian's explanation and a few thoughts on the sometimes cruel nature of politics.

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Overreacting to criticism is not good for the Iowa caucuses

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 18, 2015 at 11:44:53 AM CDT

Are Iowans "government-dependent" types who should lose our first-in-the-nation status because we embarrass ourselves and the Republican Party?

No, but the way some people reacted to comments by a political strategist should embarrass Iowans and can only hurt the Iowa caucuses.

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Mike Glover editing new Iowa Democratic blog

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 14, 2015 at 18:30:33 PM CDT

A veteran of Iowa political reporting is running the latest addition to this state's blogosphere.  
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Mid-week open thread: Hillary's e-mails edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 21:10:00 PM CDT

Let's kick off this open thread with a few links on the Hillary Clinton e-mail saga, which is obsessing the political media. Mother Jones posted the full transcript from Clinton's press conference yesterday. Excerpts are after the jump. Maggie Haberman posted a good analysis in the New York Times. David Corn's post on "The Return of the Clinton Media Persecution Complex" was excellent. It's not encouraging to see the Clintons back in bunker mode against journalists. And while some critics may be exaggerating the significance of this story,

She was a Cabinet official. She had a duty to ensure that her records-which belong to the public, not her-would be controlled by the department, not by her private aides who operate her private server. Moreover, the day she entered Foggy Bottom, she was a potential future presidential contender. [...]

So it doesn't matter what Colin Powell or Condi Rice did with their emails. Put aside Karl Rove's use of a private GOP party email account when he was a White House official. Hillary Clinton screwed up.

Speaking of screw-ups, the Associated Press ran with a related story that turned out to be false, then covered their tracks by substantially changing the content without issuing an explicit correction. Bad form.

I reject the premise that anything happening in March 2015 will be decisive in November 2016. To my mind, this scandal will only reinforce existing views about the Democratic front-runner. If you've always thought Bill and Hillary Clinton are untrustworthy, you have new fodder for that view. And if you've always thought Republicans and/or the media go too far in attacking the Clintons, you've got more ammunition now. Still, I wish Clinton had used a government e-mail for her official duties, and I wish she had responded to questions on this topic sooner.

What's on your mind this week, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Des Moines Register spins for Jeb Bush ahead of Iowa Ag Summit (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 07, 2015 at 09:35:36 AM CST

Ten potential Republican presidential candidates will speak at Bruce Rastetter's Iowa Agriculture Summit today, and a few more may send videotaped remarks. But only one GOP contender was the focus of a long and flattering feature by the Des Moines Register's chief political correspondent the day before the event.

When Jeb Bush hired longtime Iowa GOP consultant David Kochel, I figured friendly coverage in the Register would be coming to the former Florida governor. During last year's U.S. Senate campaign, just about every line Joni Ernst's backers wanted out there ended up in some Des Moines Register piece by Jennifer Jacobs. Still, Jacobs' spread on Bush in Friday's Des Moines Register shocked me. The message could hardly have been more perfectly tailored for Iowa Republicans if Bush's spin doctors had written it themselves.

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Weekend open thread: Frauds and hoaxes

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Feb 21, 2015 at 20:14:24 PM CST

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

Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center have uncovered damning evidence that fossil fuels companies paid a scholar to produce research casting doubt on whether human activity is causing climate change. Justin Gillis and John Schwartz report for the New York Times that Wei-Hock Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,

has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as "deliverables" that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Now that NBC News has suspended anchor Brian Williams for six months over untruthful accounts of his experience as an embedded reporter in Iraq, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is under a new level of scrutiny. He has falsely claimed to have reported on the Falklands War from a "war zone" and now won't answer questions about the matter. Journalist Eric Jon Engberg remembers things differently from O'Reilly. Excerpts from his account are after the jump. I will be shocked if Fox News disciplines one of its stars. UPDATE: Multiple former CBS correspondents have spoken out to "challenge O'Reilly's depiction of Buenos Aires as a 'war zone' and a 'combat situation.' They also doubt his description of a CBS cameraman being injured in the chaos."

The Des Moines Register's chief politics correspondent Jennifer Jacobs published a story on Friday headlined, "Joni Ernst targeted by hoax 'news' reports." Her primary example was this post on the National Report website, titled "Joni Ernst: Vaccines Should Be Outlawed As They 'Manipulate Brains,' Make People More Liberal." Many people circulated the vaccine story on social media, unaware that it came from a satirical website. But satire is not the same thing as a hoax. A "hoax 'news' report" is more like when Jacobs used her position at the Des Moines Register to suggest that Bruce Braley had claimed to be a farmer--a charge that played into Republican campaign narratives but made no sense to anyone who had ever heard Braley's stump speeches or read his official bio.  

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Department of strange omissions

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 18, 2015 at 12:45:37 PM CST

UPDATE: The day after this post appeared, Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen yanked Highfill from the Ways and Means Committee.

Did anyone read Josh Hafner's feature on Republican State Representative Jake Highfill in Sunday's Des Moines Register? The gist was that Highfill, the youngest current Iowa House member at age 24, has grown into his job as state legislator. He now feels "mature, more confident, he said, like he has a handle on the issues," and his constituents aren't bothered by his youth.

A few salient facts were missing from the profile.

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Weekend open thread: Core audiences

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Feb 08, 2015 at 13:55:25 PM CST

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

A few days ago, the Romenesko blog delivered a depressing inside view of life for Des Moines Register reporters. I encourage you to click through and read the whole memo on "Minimal job requirements of a self-directed reporter." Bleeding Heartland has long lamented the relentless series of cuts to the Register's news division through buyouts and layoffs. The flip side to that story is the growing list of jobs journalists are expected to do now. Judging by this memo, Gannett expects news staff not only to report well-researched "watchdog" pieces and breaking news, but also to edit their own work, closely monitor how stories are performing on the website (changing headlines if necessary), and do marketing and branding tasks that I wouldn't consider a reporter's job. On top of all that, the bosses expect journalists to have time to engage with readers on various social media, promote their colleagues' stories as well as their own, and set up "get-to-know-you coffee meetings" with "key people on your beat." Who has time for all this?

But wait! I buried the lede. The bombshell comes in the first passage under the first subheading (GROW YOUR AUDIENCE):

Define your audience: Work with your coach or strategist to define in detail the audience you are trying to reach for specific pieces of content. Also keep in mind our overall focus on the 25-45 age demographic.

Keep in mind the interests of your core audience as you decide what stories to write.

I will shortly exit the Register's desired age cohort, joining what must be a very large share of the newspaper's subscribers.

Presumably the "focus on the 25-45 age demographic" is why the Register's "coaches" and "strategists" don't mind when reporters waste time on stories such as what Mila Kunis said on Reddit about Casey's breakfast pizza. Though in fairness, that "news" brings a collateral benefit: free publicity for a retail chain that's a potential major advertiser in Iowa newspapers.

The Register's memo expanded my vocabulary with one new word: "listicle," suggested as a way for a self-directed reporter to "feed your audience's interest" in a hot topic. "Listicle" refers to "a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article." Like many bloggers, I enjoy writing that kind of post (Three silver linings from Iowa's 2014 elections, 15 Iowa politics predictions for 2015, Five political realities that should worry Democrats, Three political realities that should worry Republicans). I just didn't know the format had a special name.

Speaking of engaging with your readers, I have a request for Bleeding Heartland's core audience of anyone interested in Iowa politics. As the Iowa caucus campaign heats up, please keep your eyes and ears open for telephone surveys, push-polls, or direct mail promoting or attacking any specific candidate. Feel free to post a guest diary containing notes on the poll or screen-shots of the direct mail, or send me a private and confidential heads up by e-mail. This also means you, Republicans in the Bleeding Heartland community: I know you're out there, and I appreciate your taking the time to read a left-leaning website. With a more lively competition on the GOP side, Iowa's registered Republicans are more likely to receive newsworthy message-testing calls or hit pieces as the year goes on.  

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

House votes for more business input on federal regulations: How the Iowans voted

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 06, 2015 at 17:28:53 PM CST

The U.S. House approved two more anti-regulation bills this week. On February 4, all the Republicans present and nine Democrats passed the "Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015" by 250 votes to 173 (roll call). The following day, nineteen Democrats joined the whole GOP caucus to approve the "Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015" by 260 votes to 163 (roll call).

Iowa Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) voted for both bills. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) opposed them both; he also voted against last year's version of the unfunded mandates bill.

The bill claiming to deal with unfunded mandates "would further require agencies to consult with private sector entities impacted by the proposed rules," Cristina Marcos reported. The bill approved on Thursday "would require federal agencies to calculate the direct, as well as indirect, costs of proposed rules."

I haven't seen any public comment on these votes from the Iowans in Congress, but after the jump I enclose open letters from leaders of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, an alliance of more than 150 "consumer, small business, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups." They urged House members to reject the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, because it "neither improves nor streamlines the regulatory process" and "would rob the American people of many critical upgrades to public health and safety standards, especially those that ensure clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, safe workplaces, and a stable, prosperous economy." The same coalition opposed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, because it "would increase unnecessary and lengthy regulatory delays, increase undue influence by regulated industries and encourage convoluted court challenges."

Votes like this fly under the radar as media pursue more news stories that interest the "core demographic." That's unfortunate, because this kind of non-glamorous policy-making could affect millions of people. Few Iowans will learn that under the guise of "cutting red tape," our state's Republicans in Congress would jeopardize rules that are meant to protect the public interest. Loebsack deserves credit for standing up against these bad bills. Major corporations and industries already have too much influence over government rules.  

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