Nothing says "civil discourse" like Steve King as your campaign co-chair

“There is no civil discourse left and it is really sad,” Governor Kim Reynolds said yesterday, adding, “We ought to be able to debate ideas because that’s how you get to consensus.” Reynolds lamented the “vitriol” that dominates the current “vicious” political climate.

Today the Reynolds/Gregg campaign announced that Representative Steve King will be a co-chair. A written statement described the governor as “humbled by the endorsement” from a “strong defender of freedom and our conservative values” who is “independent, principled, and is fighting the good fight in Washington, D.C.”

You can posture as a consensus-seeker, or you can brag about support from a walking highlight reel of mean-spirited and dehumanizing rhetoric. Not both.

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Weekend open thread: Ted Cruz delegate domination edition

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

Newly-disclosed details about the sex abuse charges filed against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert caught my attention. As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall explained here, “Without the unending hunt into Bill Clinton’s sex life, you never would have heard of Denny Hastert. It also seems highly unlikely he ever would have had to answer, even in this limited way, for his own past.” While the Monica Lewinsky scandal unfolded, I was covering Russian politics and had many Russian colleagues. They were astounded by the Republican effort to remove Clinton from office. I remember some joking, if only our president (the rarely-seen-in-public Boris Yeltsin) were healthy enough to have an affair.

The big Iowa politics news of the weekend came out of the GOP district conventions on Saturday. Repeating a storyline that has played out elsewhere, Ted Cruz’s campaign destroyed the competition with superior organizing in every part of the state. Cruz didn’t entirely shut out other candidates here the way he did in Colorado, but his supporters took eleven of the twelve Republican National Convention delegate slots. Although Donald Trump has belatedly started to build a serious RNC delegate strategy, his campaign’s efforts leading up to this weekend in Iowa were remarkably incompetent. Cruz’s team have been preparing for a prolonged delegate battle since last summer and have executed the strategy well lately.

Trump still hits the magic number of 1,237 delegates (an overall majority) in most of the scenarios guest author fladem played out this week (most recently updated here). Sam Wang showed at the Princeton Election Consortium that current polling still indicates Trump could clinch the nomination on June 7–though Cruz has been over performing his poll numbers lately, which increases the chance of a brokered convention. The Cruz sweep of Colorado delegates and near-sweep of Iowa’s GOP district conventions are a reminder that the first ballot at the RNC in Cleveland may be Trump’s only chance for the nomination.

More links and commentary about the district conventions are after the jump.

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Branstad not ready to face reality on telemed abortion or court appeals process

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling against your position is usually a sign that your legal arguments lack merit. But Governor Terry Branstad hasn’t learned that lesson from his administration being on the wrong end of not one, not two, but three unanimous Iowa Supreme Court rulings.

Last week, the court ruled with no dissenting justices that Iowa’s ban on using telemedicine to provide abortion services is unconstitutional. Three of the justices who concurred in the decision are Branstad appointees (Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Edward Mansfield and Thomas Waterman). Two of them–Waterman and Mansfield–have demonstrated in previous cases that they are reluctant to substitute their judgment for that of executive branch bodies responsible for rulemaking. Yet Branstad not only rejects the reasoning underlying the telemedicine ruling, but also refuses to accept legal experts’ determination that his administration cannot appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.  

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Five key points about the Iowa Supreme Court striking down the telemedicine abortion ban

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that Iowa’s ban on the use of telemedicine to provide abortion services was unconstitutional because it imposed an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion. You can read the whole ruling here (pdf). I’ve posted highlights after the jump, along with some reaction to the decision from both sides in the debate.

A few points are worth remembering.

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Iowans haven't heard the last from Brenna (Findley) Bird

Governor Terry Branstad’s office announced on Thursday that Brenna Bird (whose maiden name was Findley) is stepping down as the governor’s legal counsel “to pursue opportunities in the private sector.” Her LinkedIn profile hasn’t been updated yet, so it’s not clear whether Bird is returning to the Des Moines-based Whitaker Hagenow law firm. She joined that firm in 2010 after leaving Representative Steve King’s staff, but did not practice much law, since she was running for Iowa attorney general full-time.

Branstad named Bird as his legal counsel shortly after the 2010 election. She appears to have influenced several of the governor’s policy choices. At one time, Branstad had supported a mandate to purchase health insurance, but soon after being inaugurated in 2011, he joined a lawsuit to overturn the federal health care reform law (a key issue in Bird’s unsuccessful attorney general campaign). Branstad’s legal counsel also appears to have helped convince Branstad to change his position on banning lead shot for hunting mourning doves in Iowa. When the state legislature refused to overturn a rule mandating non-toxic ammunition, Bird worked several angles to overturn a rule adopted by the state Natural Resource Commission.

Bird’s work as legal counsel has also gotten the Branstad administration involved in some major litigation. In 2011, she participated in efforts to pressure Iowa’s Workers Compensation Commissioner to resign before the end of his fixed term. As a result, she and the governor, along with other former staffers, are co-defendants in a lawsuit filed by the former workers’ compensation commissioner.

In 2013, Bird was a key contact for Iowans seeking to ban the use of telemedicine for providing medical abortions in Planned Parenthood clinics. As the Iowa Board of Medicine considered a new rule containing verbatim wording from anti-abortion activists, the state Attorney General’s Office “cautioned the board against moving so quickly.” But as the governor’s counsel, Bird encouraged board members to adopt the telemedicine abortion ban immediately. Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenging that rule is pending with the Iowa Supreme Court.

Bird may be leaving the public sector for now, but I suspect Iowans will see her name on a ballot before too long. She reportedly considered running for Congress last year in Iowa’s third district and has served on the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee since last June. I could easily see Bird running for a Republican-leaning Iowa House or Senate seat if one were to open up in central Iowa. Alternatively, she and 2014 attorney general nominee Adam Gregg (now Iowa’s state public defender) are likely GOP candidates for attorney general in 2018.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. After the jump I’ve enclosed a press release on Bird’s departure from the governor’s staff, with background on Michael Bousselot, her successor as legal counsel.  

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