Ten Iowa legislative incumbents who raised surprisingly little for their re-election campaigns

Since the latest deadline for state legislative candidates to report to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board passed on May 19, I’ve been going through the forms filed by incumbents or challengers in potentially competitive races.

Some of the contribution totals were much lower than I expected to see.

Follow me after the jump for ten Iowa House or Senate incumbents who haven’t been focused on fundraising, even though they could face tough re-election campaigns.

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Weekend open thread: Improbably smooth GOP state convention edition

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

The Republican Party of Iowa finished all party business at yesterday’s state convention in under six hours. (For comparison, all four of the Iowa Democratic Party’s district conventions lasted more than twice as long.) You’d never guess that a candidate not named Donald Trump won the Iowa Republican caucuses in February, or that his supporters dominated the four GOP district conventions last month. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann assured journalists that the project of uniting the party was well underway after a sometimes bitter primary season.

During their speeches to convention delegates, Governor Terry Branstad said, "We need to support Donald Trump and his choice for vice president because he will make America great again." Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds echoed the call to stand united against Democrats. As O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst didn’t mention Trump’s name but argued, "We’ve got to come together, because you know what my motto is going to be this year? Never Hillary! Never!" A massive wall display symbolized the delegates’ commitment to "Stop Hillary" from becoming president.

Representative Steve King, who said a few days ago that he is "not ready" to endorse Trump yet, left little doubt yesterday that he will be able to do so by the time of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The at-large slate of RNC delegates chosen yesterday included Branstad, Reynolds, King, and Bob Vander Plaats, who like King was a high-profile endorser of Ted Cruz before the caucuses. Vander Plaats and Trump had a big dustup on Twitter in January. This week, Vander Plaats told Neil Cavuto of Fox News that he recently met one-on-one with Trump, adding that there was "no endorsement" but that the two men had a "good conversation."

At least a handful of #NeverTrump types, such as conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, were among the more than 1550 delegates at yesterday’s state convention, but they did not make their presence known in any organized or vocal way.

The party platform debate proceeded briskly, with no big floor fights. Planks approved by voice vote included one that would eliminate more than a half-dozen federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration along with the long-hated-by-Republicans Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Education. The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble highlighted some platform planks that are at odds with Trump’s positions.

Some Iowa GOP conventions have involved intense battles over electing the man and woman to represent our state on the Republican National Committee. However, Tamara Scott was unopposed yesterday for re-election, and Steve Scheffler easily outpolled his little-known opponent David Dicks, a homeschooling dad from Des Moines.

Speaking of Scheffler, how about that guy’s survival skills? The founder of the Iowa Christian Alliance, whom conservative talk radio host Steve Deace has called the "least trustworthy & most gutless person in Iowa politics," was first elected as RNC committeeman in 2008. His victory over a legend of the Iowa Republican establishment was seen as a sign the Iowa GOP was moving to the right. Scheffler held on as RNC committeeman in 2012 amid the takeover of Iowa GOP machinery by Ron Paul supporters, winning a spot on their approved delegate slate. (Craig Robinson described here how Scheffler did "a 180" on Paul.) The "Paulinista" faction was mostly swept away in 2014, but Scheffler is still standing.

His ability to align himself with establishment figures goes back a long way. Scheffler first made a name for himself as a "lead organizer" for Pat Robertson before the 1988 Iowa caucuses. Robertson’s second-place finish in that contest shocked the political world. Scheffler went on to become a prominent Christian Coalition activist but disappointed some allies in social conservative circles by endorsing Bob Dole before the 1996 caucuses. As head of the Iowa Christian Alliance in 2007, Scheffler did not endorse a presidential candidate but "often spoke highly" of Mitt Romney (see here) and "was accused of trying to undermine Mike Huckabee’s campaign," which had much more support among Iowa evangelicals at that time. I’ve posted more background on Scheffler below.

UPDATE: Every Iowa Republican who has endorsed Trump should be asked about this article by David Cay Johnston: "Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob?" Johnston won a Pulitzer prize in 2001 for his reporting on loopholes and inequities in the U.S. tax code.

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Hold on to your hats: Search for new president coming to UNI

I have a bad feeling about this: after three years as University of Northern Iowa president, Dr. William Ruud is leaving Cedar Falls to lead Marietta College in Ohio. That college and the Iowa Board of Regents confirmed Ruud’s plans shortly after Jeff Charis-Carlson broke the news yesterday.

Moving from the top job at a well-regarded state university to a private college one-tenth the size isn’t a typical path for academic leaders. So, did Ruud jump or was he pushed?

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Iowa families get promises but no guarantee on autism insurance coverage

Iowa families hoping for guaranteed insurance coverage of autism services will have to wait at least one more year. Despite Democratic efforts to add an autism coverage mandate to the health and human services budget for fiscal year 2017, the compromise approved on the final day of this year’s legislative session excluded such language. Instead, lawmakers increased state funding for various autism-related grants and programs.

According to the lead Republican negotiator on the human services budget, families affected by autism will have insurance coverage by January 2017 without a mandate, thanks to Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s decision to sell policies through Iowa’s public insurance exchange. But those policies will not be available to Iowans living in dozens of counties, nor will they cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) interventions, which are effective but prohibitively expensive for many people with spectrum disorders.

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New details on Wellmark's plans to sell policies through Iowa's public exchange

The 800-pound gorilla of Iowa’s health insurance market, Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, released new details today about its plans to sell policies for 2017 on the health insurance exchange created as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. More than half of Iowans are insured by Wellmark, mostly through employer-provided policies. The company controls about three-quarters of the state’s market for individual health insurance, but up to now, those policy-holders have not been eligible for federal subsidies. Wellmark announced last October that it would participate in Iowa’s exchange for 2017 and confirmed those plans last month, when UnitedHealthcare disclosed that it would exit "Obamacare marketplaces" across the country, including Iowa’s.

Wellmark’s Chairman and CEO John Forsyth said last year that the company decided to join the public exchange so members "can access subsidies that are critical to help reduce the cost of health insurance premiums for themselves and their families." Many thousands of people will need those subsidies, because today Wellmark revealed that roughly 30,000 Iowans who hold individual policies compliant with the Affordable Care Act will likely see massive premiums increases of 38 to 43 percent next year.

Unfortunately, as Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register, Wellmark policies will be available on the public exchange only for residents of 47 Iowa counties—not statewide.

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Iowa Medicaid Transition Not Smooth

Rhonda Shouse, a Medicaid recipient and member of Iowa’s Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council, is a leading advocate for Iowans affected by Medicaid privatization. She is an admin for the MCO Watchdog Facebook group and has previously shared resources to help people report problems with managed-care providers. The Cedar Rapids Gazette published a shorter version of this commentary last week. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Iowa Medicaid Enterprises (IME) Director Mikki Stier wrote a guest column on Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization which appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Fort Dodge Messenger, and Sioux City Journal in April. I am writing in response to Ms. Stier’s column.

If IME considers making it more difficult for Medicaid beneficiaries to get much needed items such as catheters, diapers, medication, transportation to medical appointments, and permission for guardians to represent their wards, then Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization is a huge success. These were not obstacles under the old Medicaid system.

In IA Health Link’s first month, the bulk of the problems point directly to the Department of Human Resources and IME to adequately provide the MCOs with accurate information. It is likely due to the unrealistic time frame established by Governor Terry Branstad, or DHS, depending on who tells the story of who came up with the idea for Iowa’s Medicaid Managed Care program. Most states that have moved to a managed care approach have moved only portions of their beneficiaries at a time and done so over a two to five year period.

It is very unfortunate that Governor Branstad, DHS, and IME have been perpetrating a public relations campaign for more than a year now to misinform Iowans on how their tax dollars will be spent, who Medicaid beneficiaries are, and how services will be delivered to approximately half a million Iowa residents. Healthcare should not be a partisan political issue.

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