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Media

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.  
There's More... :: (3 Comments, 793 words in story)

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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Joni Ernst tapped to deliver State of the Union response

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 15, 2015 at 16:55:00 PM CST

Republican leaders of the U.S. House and Senate announced today that newly-elected Senator Joni Ernst will deliver the televised response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on January 20. Some liberals are already laughing, but from where I'm sitting, she's a perfect choice. One thing we learned about Ernst last year: she knows how to read from a prepared text. She'll stick to her message, and she won't have to answer any unscripted questions about that message:

"Our folks back home sent us to Washington D.C., with a clear mission. And that mission is to get to work. That mission is to craft and implement good policies and good solutions," Ernst said. "We want to ensure that the America we are building leaves a stronger economy and more opportunity for our children and our grandchildren."

When a reporter tried to follow up with Ernst after the announcement, Boehner jokingly batted the question away.

"No," Boehner said to laughter from the press corps.

Ernst provided material for a lot of late-night television jokes last year with her "Squeal" ad, and I expect GOP speechwriters to sneak in some farm references next Tuesday. If the big bad liberal media are seen to make fun of the "ordinary farm girl," they will only generate more sympathy for Ernst among Iowans. Anyway, Senator Marco Rubio set the bar low with his fumbling, water bottle-grabbing performance after Obama's 2013 State of the Union address. Surely Ernst can do a lot better than that.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - Jon Neiderbach asked today, "Can you name any Iowa politician who rose so high so fast?" I sure can't think of any. Only four and a half years ago, Ernst was hardly known outside Montgomery County. In fact, if Terry Branstad hadn't picked the little-known Kim Reynolds to be his running mate in 2010, Ernst would still be the Montgomery County auditor. She only ran for the Iowa Senate because Reynolds resigned the seat after being elected lieutenant governor.

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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)

Weekend open thread: Stephen Colbert farewell edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 09:32:35 AM CST

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Happy Chanukah to those who are celebrating. It looks like most of Iowa won't have a white Christmas, but at least that will make travel easier for people going home for the holidays.

This week Stephen Colbert wrapped up production of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Dozens of political and cultural celebrities showed up to help sing "We'll Meet Again" during the final show on Thursday. Next year Colbert will take over the CBS Late Show from David Letterman.

Although I've been a fan since the days Colbert was a correspondent on The Daily Show, I didn't expect his character to be able to carry an entire program for more than a year or two before the shtick got old. I was wrong: the quality remained amazingly high. In this podcast, Colbert described his process for getting in character and a typical day in the production of The Colbert Report. So much work went into what came off as effortless commentaries on current events.

Colbert filmed more than 1,400 episodes of his late-night show, but his most memorable performance as his conservative alter ego was surely his routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2006. Click here for the video or here for a full transcript.

NPR posted excerpts from six different interviews with Colbert since his show debuted in 2005.

Over the years, Colbert interviewed 81 members of the U.S. House for his "Better Know a District" segments. Click through to watch the final installment, featuring Republican Jack Kingston of Georgia's first district. It was hilarious.

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Weekend open thread: Media ethics edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Dec 07, 2014 at 18:00:00 PM CST

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

The Washington Post's media critic Eric Wemple caught syndicated columnist George Will red-handed in a flagrant conflict of interest.

This case highlights Will's intersecting lines of influence. He's a director of the Bradley Foundation, an entity with more than $800 million in assets and 2013 grants totaling nearly $34 million to organizations in Wisconsin and across the country, including big-time Beltway entities like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society. His column is syndicated to about 450 newspapers. Keeping those two worlds separate is quite a job, as the Nov. 19 column demonstrates: Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist's kind words, WILL may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest - an offense of which Will has been accused before.

Click through to read the whole column, including Will's response. The columnist is unrepentant: "I do not see how disclosure of my connection to Bradley, and Bradley's connection to WILL, and WILL's connection to the school choice program, would be important to readers." That suggests he will not hesitate to pull the same stunt again. Newspapers including the Des Moines Register should drop Will's column if they don't share his views on what constitutes full disclosure.

Speaking of the Register, Lynn Hicks (up to now the newspaper's executive business editor) is taking over this month as editorial page editor as Randy Evans retires from that position. Evans will be missed. Seven people will serve on the Register's editorial board going forward: President and Publisher Rick Green, Executive Editor Amalie Nash, Lynn Hicks, Rox Laird, Andie Dominick, Clark Kauffman, and Brian Smith. Laird has been writing editorials at the Register for about 30 years, Dominick since 2001. Kauffman is a longtime investigative reporter who just joined the editorial board in September of this year. Smith "is taking on a new engagement editor role that emphasizes reaching new audiences and connecting with the community"; up to now he has been an associate digital editor for the Register.

It's probably too much to hope for the Register to make the politics and opinion sections of the website easier to navigate. Every newspaper owned by Gannett seems to operate with the same horrible template now. So I'll settle for hoping that in the future, the Register will disclose any family connections between subjects of guest columns and members of the editorial board.

Rolling Stone magazine is backing off from a widely publicized story about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. There were red flags in the original story, and some other journalists have questioned why no one from Rolling Stone interviewed the alleged perpetrators of the gang rape. I agree 100 percent with Olga Khazan: "this whole episode is terrible news for survivors of rape on college campuses and elsewhere." Whatever did or did not happen to "Jackie" (the subject of Sabrina Rubin Erdely's article), the collapse of this story undermines advocates working to get colleges and universities to address the real problem of sexual assault on campus.  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

McChicken Sandwich

by: JonInIowaCity

Wed Dec 03, 2014 at 23:37:34 PM CST

(This has been bothering me too. The woman's nose was broken, but some media accounts are playing for laughs with comments like "Definitely not a happy meal." - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I read that a guy in Des Moines was arrested for hitting his wife with a McChicken sandwich. Which is hilarious because it involved a McChicken sandwich.

And then you read the rest of the story and realize that he battered his pregnant wife because he didn't like what she brought him for lunch. He smacked her around with the sandwich and smashed it into her face until her nose was broken. Plus he knocked the phone from her hands when she tried calling the police for help.

But the media is treating it like a joke because it involved a McChicken sandwich.
Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Mid-week open thread: Double standards on crime edition

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 19:42:29 PM CST

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

Today's Des Moines Register featured a front-page article by Kathy Bolten about the massive racial disparity in arrest rates across Iowa. The piece contained new analysis and statistics on a longstanding problem in our state. I've posted some excerpts after the jump. This database includes detailed from 41 Iowa law enforcement jurisdictions that "arrest blacks at a higher rate than people of other races." Iowa-Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews noted that when blacks and whites are detained for the same alleged offenses, police are more likely to charge blacks. The American Civil Liberties Union found last year, "Iowa has the largest racial disparity in the country of arrests in marijuana possession, with blacks being more than eight times as likely to be arrested than whites, even though whites use marijuana at about the same rate [...]."

Speaking of double standards, MacKenzie Elmer reported for the Des Moines Register last week that on October 3, an Urbandale police officer let Joni Ernst's spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel get away with driving drunk. Knowing that an arrest would get her fired, he let Hamel off with a warning. I've posted excerpts from that piece after the jump too. Raise your hand if you think a non-white drunk driver who initially lied to the police would have received the same sympathetic hearing from an Urbandale cop. Less than a month later, Hamel was arrested in West Des Moines for OWI. Fortunately, she didn't kill or seriously injure anyone in the meantime.

Hamel's arrest occurred on October 29, and she resigned from the Ernst campaign the following day. Surely reporters covering the IA-Sen race would have noticed that Ernst's primary press contact was gone. Yet the Register's first report on the incident appeared on the newspaper's website on November 6 and in print the following day. Republican blogger Craig Robinson breathed a sign of relief: "Can you imagine the mess this would have created for Ernst if it had gotten out before Election Day?"

The delay fueled some suspicions that the Register held back the Hamel story until after the election. Given Ernst's margin of victory, this news could not have affected the outcome, but getting knocked off message in the final days could have been significant in a close campaign. On November 7, I asked the Register's political reporters Jennifer Jacobs and Jason Noble when they noticed Hamel was gone and when they found out why.

After getting no response for two days, I took the same questions to the Des Moines Register's Editor and Vice President Amalie Nash. She responded promptly,

Thanks for asking the question. We published the story on Gretchen Hamel's arrest as soon as we were able to confirm it. We were aware she had exited the campaign and inquired with Joni Ernst's staff as soon as we found out she was gone. We were told she submitted her resignation due to a "drinking incident," but the campaign declined to release additional details. We continued asking questions of other sources until we were able to find out where the incident occurred and get details from the police department. As soon as we got confirmation of her arrest, we published a story.

I was confused about why it took the Des Moines Register so long to confirm Hamel's arrest. Details about the case were posted on the Iowa Courts Online website on October 30 and 31. Searching for Hamel's name would have allowed any Register employee to confirm the arrest in seconds. Furthermore, a major newspaper presumably has a staffer checking arrest logs on a daily basis. When two WHO-TV reporters were arrested for drunk driving in Des Moines this past summer, the Register had a story up with their mugshots less than three days after the incidents.

Nash responded to my follow-up question by saying, "We have staff checking [arrest logs] daily in Des Moines, but not all surrounding communities on a daily basis." Hamel was arrested in West Des Moines and booked at the Dallas County jail. Nash later elaborated,

We received the tip that she may have been arrested on an OWI last Wednesday [November 5] and were able to confirm and publish with details by Thursday [November 6].

As I noted, we don't do daily stops at the West Des Moines Police Department to check arrest logs. We get over there as much as we can, but do not have the staffing to make a daily visit.

It seems unlikely that political reporters who talk frequently with Republican sources would not have heard anything about Hamel's arrest until seven days after the fact. And if that's true, I wonder why Jennifer Jacobs and Jason Noble didn't just say so when I first asked them about it. In any event, that's the official explanation from the Des Moines Register.

UPDATE: Some Iowa politics-watchers have asked me why it matters when the Register covered Hamel's arrest. Although Ernst was winning the IA-Sen race regardless, it matters if anyone at any level in the Register's newsroom held back a story to preserve good relations with and access to people around the senator to be.

The Des Moines rumor mill says other area reporters had the story about Hamel's OWI but decided against running it, period. We can debate whether it's newsworthy that a campaign staffer was driving drunk. But Register Editor Amalie Nash takes a different position: the incident "was newsworthy, which is why we published a story as soon as we learned of her arrest." It is frankly hard to believe that no one in the newsroom knew about that event before November 5.

P.S. I forgot to mention that Annah Backstrom, the Register's "content strategist for politics," also declined to answer my straightforward question about when staff at the newspaper found out why Hamel was no longer working for Ernst.  

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Weekend open thread: Senate polls and polling challenges edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 18, 2014 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

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

I've been reading about opinion polls, and specifically, the polling industry's growing challenge of sampling a group that looks like the electorate. Almost every day, a new poll appears on Iowa's U.S. Senate race. Since last weekend's Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News, which showed Ernst up by 1 point, three other polls have shown small leads for Ernst, while one showed Braley slightly ahead. How Iowa's no-party voters are leaning is anyone's guess; some polls have shown Ernst leading among independents, others have indicated that Braley is ahead.

All of these surveys are reporting results among "likely Iowa voters," but which, if any, have correctly identified a representative sample? The statistical margin of error means little if the pollster is systematically oversampling certain voters while not reaching other groups. As Nate Silver discusses here, data since 1998 show that polls of U.S. Senate or gubernatorial races are less accurate than presidential polls.

Media orthodoxy says reporters and pollsters can never admit their own organization's poll might have been an "outlier." Rather, readers are told that all trends apparent from some group's poll reflect real shifts of public opinion. So we get the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs saying Braley "has begun to overcome some of the vulnerabilities detected in the Iowa Poll two weeks ago," going from a double-digit deficit among independents to a slight lead, and going from 25 points down among male respondents to 16 points down. Really, is it likely Braley surged so much in two weeks, as opposed to the previous Des Moines Register/Selzer poll overstating Ernst's advantage overall and among certain groups?

Similarly, Quinnipiac's latest Iowa poll shows "independent voters backing Rep. Braley 48 - 43 percent, a shift from Ernst's 50 - 43 percent lead among these key voters last month." Did no-party voters really change their minds in large numbers over a few weeks, or did Quinnipiac's findings change because of statistical noise?

After the jump I've posted excerpts from several articles about polling and some revealing comments by Ann Selzer, a guest on a recent edition of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program.  

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Weekend open thread, with lots of IA-Sen links

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Oct 11, 2014 at 16:00:00 PM CDT

Whose idea was it to hold so many Iowa candidate debates on Saturday nights this year? At 7 pm this evening, Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst face off in the second of three scheduled debates. (C-SPAN will televise nationwide, and KWQC TV will televise in the Quad Cities area.) Immediately after that, KWQC will broadcast the second and final debate between Representative Dave Loebsack and Mariannette Miller-Meeks in the second Congressional district race. (That debate will be taped earlier in the day.)

I won't be able to watch either showdown live because of a family wedding, but I will catch up later with some links and recap, as well as highlights from the new Selzer poll for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. A bunch of links related to the IA-Sen race are after the jump. I still see the debate as equally risky for Braley and Ernst, for different reasons.

UPDATE: The new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll by Selzer & Co has Braley and Ernst nearly tied. Ernst is ahead by a statistically insignificant 47 percent to 46 percent. I do not believe Ernst lost a lot of ground during the last two weeks. I believe she was never as far ahead as the last Selzer poll indicated. Other polls in the field around the same time showed a much closer race. In particular, I do not believe that in two weeks, Braley went from a 25-point deficit among men to a 16-point deficit now.

SECOND UPDATE: The full debate video is on the KWQC website.

THIRD UPDATE: I wish every undecided voter in Iowa had seen this debate. Having finally watched the full video myself, I understand why shills for Ernst kept reaching for their security blankets on Saturday night. Talk about a disastrous performance. She repeatedly fell back on rote talking points that didn't answer the question. On several occasions it was apparent that she did not understand the policy implications of her own words. I particularly loved how she insisted that the bipartisan Senate-passed immigration reform bill was "amnesty," even though Braley had already explained why it was different from amnesty. She talked about securing the border, even though Braley had already explained that we would have 20,000 more border control agents if that immigration reform bill had become law. Toward the end of that exchange, though, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Ernst say she would not vote to repeal President Barack Obama's DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). A lot of conservatives were presumably surprised too, but not in a pleasant way.

At the end of this post I've linked to several pieces summarizing the debate highlights.

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IA-Sen: First Braley/Ernst debate liveblog and discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 16:59:26 PM CDT

In a few minutes Representative Bruce Braley and State Senator Joni Ernst will start their first debate at Simpson College in Indianola. You can watch the debate on KCCI-TV in the Des Moines viewing area and on C-SPAN across the country (in central Iowa that's channel 95).

I previewed what I see as the biggest potential pitfalls for each candidate here. I'll be liveblogging after the jump and will also update later with some reaction to the debate.

UPDATE: KCCI has posted the debate video online. I cleaned up some typos and filled in gaps in the liveblog below.

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IA-Sen debate preview: Risks for Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 28, 2014 at 16:19:05 PM CDT

Representative Bruce Braley and State Senator Joni Ernst face off today for the first of three scheduled debates. You can watch at 5 pm on C-SPAN or on KCCI-TV if you live in the Des Moines viewing area. KCCI and the Des Moines Register will live-stream the debate as well.

Debates rarely change election outcomes, but they are high-stakes events because a mistake provides fodder for a wave of attack ads. Republicans have been bashing Staci Appel for two weeks already over one awkward response she gave during her Congressional candidate debate with David Young.

Follow me after the jump for a preview of the major risks for each candidate in the IA-Sen debate. Braley goes in under more pressure after the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll showed him behind by 6 points. But the format creates some potential pitfalls for Ernst too.

By the way, in her ongoing quest to displace WHO-TV's Dave Price as the favorite journalist of central Iowa Republicans, the Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs put her thumb on the scale in her debate preview. Jacobs attributes negative views of Braley to "voters" while dismissing criticism of Ernst as coming from "Democrats." Memo to Register publisher Rick Green: we know you're conservative, but it's embarrassing for your chief political reporter to express such a clear preference ahead of a debate your newspaper is co-sponsoring. Maybe you should move Jacobs over to the opinion page during your upcoming job shuffle.

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Weekend open thread: Des Moines Register IA-Sen poll edition (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Sep 27, 2014 at 23:36:24 PM CDT

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This evening the Des Moines Register rolled out partial results from its first Iowa poll since forming a partnership with Bloomberg News on political coverage. The news isn't encouraging for Democrats: State Senator Joni Ernst leads U.S. Representative Bruce Braley by 44 percent to 38 percent, outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent. CORRECTION: That's the margin of error for each candidate's support. The margin of error for Ernst's lead over Braley would be larger.

I've posted excerpts from the Register's coverage after the jump. The most worrying points include: Ernst has a double-digit lead among independents; her 25-point lead among men more than compensates for Braley's 13-point lead among women; she leads among every age group (though only by 1 percent among senior citizens); Braley is not ahead in the first Congressional district, despite representing much of northeast Iowa since 2007.

Some Democrats have been grumbling this evening about the biased tone of the Register's write-up. For instance, Jennifer Jacobs dwelled on Braley's negatives, even though the poll showed a higher unfavorable rating for Ernst (44 percent) than for Braley (42 percent). In general, I can't remember a Des Moines Register political reporter showing a stronger bias than Jacobs has shown toward Ernst this whole year. It's remarkable. But that's far from Braley's biggest problem right now.

I expected the Braley campaign to respond that this poll is out of line with their internal numbers, or with other recent polls showing the IA-Sen race tied. But the memo from Braley's campaign manager Sarah Benzing was much more alarming, since it accepted the Register's numbers as a "snapshot of where this race begins" as voters start paying attention. It argued that the race was tied all summer, when "the TV spending numbers were closer to parity." In contrast, "the Ernst campaign and its backers have spent over $500,000 more than the Braley campaign and Democratic groups on television" in the past two weeks. "Unless this disparity is equalized over the next few weeks, there is a real chance that spending by outside groups will determine the Iowa Senate race [...]."

I've enclosed the Braley memo after the jump. There's some happy talk about the Democratic ground game, which supposedly will deliver for Braley "as long as Democratic spending in Iowa matches the firepower that the other side is contributing to the air war." Really, that's your spin? News flash: Democrats won a bunch of close Senate races in 2012 despite being outspent on television. They were able to connect with voters despite that deficit. Moreover, pro-Ernst and anti-Braley spending will probably continue to surpass Democratic spending for the whole month of October. Braley's campaign manager should not be suggesting her candidate can't win under those circumstances.

Democrats need to hope that either Braley can turn things around in the debates, or that this poll will turn out to be one of Selzer & Co's occasional misses (like when the Register's Iowa poll had Terry Branstad 28 points ahead of Bob Vander Plaats a few days before he won the 2010 GOP primary by 9 points). It's too bad the Register didn't commission an Iowa poll shortly after the June primary, so we would all have a baseline for comparison. But Public Policy Polling has an Iowa survey in the field this weekend too, and claims Ernst is running ahead.

UPDATE: On September 28, Harstad Strategic Research released partial results from a poll conducted between September 21 and 25 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. This poll showed Braley and Ernst tied at 42 percent each and Braley leading among independents by 40 percent to 36 percent. The survey drew respondents from the Iowa voter file rather than through the random-dialing method used by some pollsters. I've added the memo at the end of this post.

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