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campaign finance

Weekend open thread: Political corruption edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Sep 07, 2014 at 13:10:56 PM CDT

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

I've been reading about the recent convictions of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen McDonnell on federal corruption charges. Both are likely to do prison time for accepting money and favors for personal benefit. Incidentally, McDonnell refused a deal that would have required him to plead guilty to just one charge, sparing his wife from prosecution. Iowa's own former State Senator Kent Sorenson showed more chivalry--or was it wisdom, for once?--when he agreed to plead guilty on corruption charges, protecting his own wife from prosecution in connection with illegal payments.

While I have no problem with prosecuting greedy politicians, it occurs to me that the McDonnells' outrageous actions (such as letting a wealthy businessman cater their daughter's wedding) were less damaging to the public welfare than many more prevalent forms of "legal corruption." No governor will be prosecuted for appointing wealthy donors to powerful state positions, where they may promote their own businesses or interfere with those they see threatening their industry. No governor will ever be prosecuted for giving interest groups undue influence on public policy, either covertly or openly. In the August 31 Sunday Des Moines Register, Richard Doak wrote an excellent piece on how Governor Terry Branstad has "put state government at the service of one segment of the people: the business community." I've posted excerpts after the jump. Doak's not talking about criminal activity, but he cites policies that have harmed Iowa more than any luxury vacation for the McDonnells could ever harm Virginia.

On a related note, the Brennan Center for Justice recently published a disturbing report on trends in federal campaign spending:

In recent cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Supreme Court has been narrowing what counts as corruption in campaign finance cases to mere quid pro quo corruption. Quid pro quo is Latin meaning "this for that." In other words only explicit exchanges of gifts for votes or campaign cash for official acts will count as corruption for the Roberts Supreme Court. But a new study entitled, "The New Soft Money" from Professor Daniel Tokaji and Renata Strause calls this narrow read of corruption into question.  

Speaking of "dark money," Iowa's third Congressional district was among thirteen tossup U.S. House races examined in a separate Brennan Center report on outside political spending. A growing trend (not yet seen in IA-03) is for a super-PAC to be formed supporting a single Congressional candidate, giving "big donors a way of evading federal contribution limits."

UPDATE: Over at the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's blog, Adam Rappaport illustrates another example of legalized corruption: "issue ads" funded by dark money, which are clearly intended to influence elections. Although the "tax code plainly says section 501(c)(4) organizations must be 'exclusively' engaged in non-political activity," the IRS interpretation allows dark money groups to fund blatant electioneering communications.  

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Kent Sorenson pleads guilty over hidden payments scheme (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 13:39:46 PM CDT

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that former State Senator Kent Sorenson has pleaded guilty to two charges related to hidden payments in exchange for supporting Ron Paul for president. When he abandoned his position as Michele Bachmann's Iowa campaign chair to endorse Paul less than a week before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, rumors immediately circulated about alleged payments for his support. Sorenson repeatedly denied those rumors. However, he has now admitted that he received $73,000 in concealed payments after endorsing Paul. As part of his plea agreement, he also admitted lying to journalists and giving false testimony to an independent counsel appointed to investigate various charges. Sorenson resigned his Iowa Senate seat last October, the same day that independent counsel filed a devastating report. Federal authorities have been investigating the case since last year.

After the jump I've enclosed the full Department of Justice press release, with more details about the plea deal. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. As far as I can tell, these charges are unrelated to any payments Sorenson allegedly received from the Bachmann campaign earlier in 2011. A former Bachmann campaign staffer made those claims in complaints he filed with the Federal Election Commission and with the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. Another former Bachmann staffer signed an affidavit containing details on Sorenson's compensation for work supporting that campaign.

One mystery I hope someone will solve someday is whether Sorenson's attorney, Ted Sporer, lied on behalf of his client, or whether Sorenson lied to Sporer along with everyone else. Even on the day he resigned from the state legislature, Sorenson maintained he was an innocent victim of a "straight-up political witch hunt." A separate lawsuit that had alleged Sorenson stole a valuable e-mail list from a Bachmann staffer's computer was eventually settled without any admission of wrongdoing by Sorenson.

UPDATE: Russ Choma has more details at Open Secrets, including the full plea agreement. Highly recommend clicking through to read that whole post. I've enclosed excerpts below.

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Who's right about impeachment prospects: John Boehner or Steve King?

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 21:40:00 PM CDT

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner doesn't want to impeach President Barack Obama. His plan to sue the president is a gambit to appease Republicans bent on fighting the president's alleged failure "to faithfully execute the laws." At this week's meeting of the House GOP caucus, both Boehner and Greg Walden, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, urged colleagues not to talk about impeachment, saying such talk only helps Democrats. Today, Boehner assured a roomful of reporters, "We have no plans to impeach the president," claiming that such speculation was "all a scam started by Democrats at the White House."

There's no question Democrats have been hyping the impeachment speculation, to remarkably successful effect. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took in $2 million over four days from e-mail appeals warning of Republican plans to oust the president.

But it's a stretch for Boehner to claim Democrats dreamed up the impeachment "scam." Dave Weigel posted a good overview of Republicans inside and outside Congress calling for impeachment within the past year, and especially within the past month.

Just a few days ago, Iowa's own Representative Steve King predicted House Republicans will be motivated to launch impeachment proceedings if President Obama uses executive orders to give "amnesty" to undocumented immigrants. After the jump I've posted excerpts from those comments, as well as King's latest op-ed piece on immigration policy (which does not mention impeachment).  

To put it mildly, King and Boehner don't always see eye to eye on political messaging. With House leadership strongly opposed, I'm skeptical Republicans aligned with King would be able to force a vote on articles of impeachment, let alone pass such a measure. Too many people remember how calls to impeach President Bill Clinton backfired during the 1998 midterm elections. But it's worth noting that House Republicans proceeded with efforts to remove Clinton despite the verdict voters delivered in 1998. A recent national poll indicated that even as Obama's approval ratings remain low, two-thirds of Americans oppose impeaching him. The same poll suggested that a majority of Republican respondents favor impeachment.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers? Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - Great piece by Lynda Waddington on King saying, in effect, that Obama can't feel true patriotism because "he was not raised with an American experience."

UPDATE: Added new comments from King below. He isn't currently pushing for impeachment but thinks the president might want to be impeached because of a narcissistic personality and "messiah complex."

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Weekend open thread: Cashing in

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 27, 2014 at 09:58:10 AM CDT

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

Most political campaign staffers are overworked and underpaid, and the prevalence of unpaid internships in Congressional offices leaves few opportunities for people who are not independently wealthy. Now two veterans of Barack Obama's 2012 presidential campaign have come under fire for launching what looks like "a 'pay to play' system for would-be campaign staff." Participants pay $5,000 for five days of intensive training, followed by five weeks of unpaid work on a campaign. Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird claim their consulting firm is just looking to recoup costs through this program, which is "focused on an international audience" rather than American progressives. They also deny they are charging people to volunteer. Rather, they say they are training participants in "organizing, data analytics, digital, and communications strategy and tactics coupled with immersion on a campaign."

Doesn't sound like "change we can believe in" to me. If Stewart and Bird hope "to equip grassroots advocates with the key skills and best practices," they should seek donations from wealthy progressives to cover costs, rather than charging a fee few aspiring activists could afford.

As selling out goes, though, Stewart and Bird's gambit bothers me less than Obama's 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina advising the Tory party in Britain, or another group of 2012 Obama campaign wizards applying their marketing talents to lure more suckers to a Las Vegas casino.

On a related note, the Ready for Hillary super-PAC has somehow convinced 90,000 people to give them money. Most of these donors probably feel they are doing something tangible to help Hillary Clinton become president. The reality is, they are just helping a small group of insiders build a list that will later be sold to a Clinton campaign.

If you can afford to give money to political causes, it's better to donate directly to a worthy candidate's campaign, or to non-profits that are committed to a mission besides enriching the founders.

Which is not to say there's any shame in talented people getting rich. Case in point: Weird Al Yankovic. His new album deserved to hit number one on the charts. The lyrics for "Tacky" and "Word Crimes" are hysterical. They inspired me to go back and listen to some of Weird Al's classics. My favorites include "Six Words Long" (a parody of George Harrison's "I Got My Mind Set On You") and "The Saga Begins" (a Star Wars-themed version of Don McLean's song "American Pie"). I don't know whether he plans to tour in support of his new album, but if he does, I hope he comes through central Iowa. I was fortunate to see him play Des Moines as the opening act for a Monkees reunion tour during the 1980s. Hilarious.

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Iowa Congressional 2Q fundraising news roundup, with a few surprises

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 13:24:37 PM CDT

With all four U.S. House districts in Iowa targeted by one or both parties this year, and competitive primaries happening in three of the four races, I was eager to see where the nominees stood at the end of the second quarter.

Highlights from the Federal Election Commission filings are after the jump. After lackluster fundraising the last three quarters, six-term Representative Steve King finally managed to out-raise his Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer, but to my surprise, Mowrer retained a big advantage over King in cash on hand as of June 30.  

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All four Iowa Congressional districts to be targeted races in 2014

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 15:12:59 PM CDT

All four Iowa Congressional districts are being targeted by at least one of the major-party committees focused on U.S. House races. This week the National Republican Congressional Committee moved three Iowa candidates to the top tier of its "Young Guns" program: Rod Blum (IA-01), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), and David Young (IA-03). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee moved IA-03 nominee Staci Appel to the top tier of the "Red to Blue" program in March and elevated Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Jim Mowrer (IA-04) to that status shortly after the June 3 primary.

So far the DCCC does not appear concerned about four-term Representative Dave Loebsack's race against Miller-Meeks, whom he defeated by a large margin in 2008 and a narrow margin in 2010. In contrast to the last election cycle, Loebsack has not been added to this year's "Frontline" program for vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Likewise, the NRCC has not put six-term incumbent Steve King in its "Patriot" program for vulnerable Republican House members, despite the fact that Mowrer has out-raised King for the last three fundraising quarters.

Not every candidate named to the "Young Guns" or "Red to Blue" program will receive the same level of financial assistance. I expect the DCCC and NRCC to spend more money in IA-03, generally considered the only "tossup" race in Iowa, than in the other three districts combined.

Any comments about this year's Iowa Congressional races are welcome in this thread. After the jump I've posted the latest voter registration totals for all four districts. Those numbers explain in part why various forecasters have categorized the seats in IA-01 and IA-02 as leaning or likely Democratic, while Republicans are favored to hold IA-04.

Next week, federal candidates must file financial reports for the second quarter. I'll be particularly interested to see how much Murphy, Young, and Miller-Meeks were able to raise between the June 3 primary and the end of the quarter. Although Young had to spend heavily and loan his own campaign $250,000 to get through the GOP primary, I expect his connections to Senator Chuck Grassley's network and multitudes of career lobbyists and Congressional staffers will allow him to keep pace with Appel, who has raised a lot of money and didn't have to spend much in her uncontested Democratic primary. I'm skeptical that Blum will be able to match Murphy in IA-01, even though Murphy wasn't the strongest fundraiser in the Democratic field there. I also wonder whether we'll see signs of King taking Mowrer's challenge more seriously than he has up to now.  

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IA-03 news roundup: NRCC more interested, Appel releases first ad against Young

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 01, 2014 at 11:24:46 AM CDT

As expected, Iowa's third Congressional district campaign between former State Senator Staci Appel and Senator Chuck Grassley's former chief of staff David Young is shaping up to be the most competitive and most expensive of Iowa's four U.S. House races. Within days of Young's surprise victory at a GOP special nominating convention, the Appel campaign released its first paid advertisement highlighting Young's long career as a Congressional staffer and support for cutting Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, the National Republican Congressional Committee added Young to its list of "contenders" and is now paying for robocalls attacking Appel.

Follow me after the jump for details on the latest IA-03 campaign developments.

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Jeff Kaufmann and Cody Hoefert likely to be next Iowa GOP leaders

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:35:00 AM CDT

Former Iowa House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Kaufmann appears likely to be chosen as the next state chair of the Republican Party of Iowa this weekend. Kaufmann has been rumored to be angling for that position ever since he was elected to the party's new State Central Committee this spring. He made his plans official in an e-mail sent to fellow State Central Committee members yesterday. Excerpts are after the jump. Kaufmann served four terms in the Iowa House before retiring in 2012. His son, Bobby Kaufmann, currently represents the same district.

Lyon County Republican Chair Cody Hoefert announced yesterday that he is running for state party co-chair. Excerpts from his e-mail are at the end of this post.

Immediately after their terms began on June 14, the majority of new State Central Committee members signed a letter calling for a meeting on June 28 to elect a new chair and co-chair. Danny Carroll and Gopal Krishna have served in those positions since late March.

Some party activists are upset that the new State Central Committee isn't giving Carroll a chance to show he can lead. A former state lawmaker and close ally of Bob Vander Plaats, Carroll is popular with social conservatives. At least two GOP county central committees (Jasper and Warren Counties) have passed non-binding votes of no confidence in the State Central Committee's plan to vote on new leaders. I recommend watching or listening to the video of Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler's remarks to Jasper County Republican Central Committee members, followed by comments from the audience and the no-confidence vote. Scheffler repeatedly brought up the need for the state party to improve its fundraising, and argued that past chair A.J. Spiker created this problem by resigning in March rather than making his resignation effective on June 14, when the new State Central Committee was seated. He also suggested that Carroll should have agreed to resign his position, an assertion that angered some Jasper County activists.

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IA-Sen: Five quick thoughts on Joni Ernst's crushing victory

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 06:45:00 AM CDT

I thought State Senator Joni Ernst would win the U.S. Senate primary outright, but I never thought she'd take more than 56 percent of the vote. A more detailed post on Mark Jacobs' collapse will come later, but for now, here is my first take on the Ernst triumph.
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IA-03: Monte Shaw's strengths and weaknesses as a candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 14:42:41 PM CDT

State Senator Brad Zaun won a crowded primary in Iowa's third Congressional district in 2010, and he has led the only public polls in IA-03 this spring, but my best guess is that Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw will end up becoming Staci Appel's competition in the general election campaign. I assume no candidate will win 35 percent of the vote in tomorrow's primary, forcing a special district convention to select the nominee. From where I'm sitting, Shaw's strengths as a candidate outweigh his potential weaknesses with Republican voters and delegates.
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IA-Sen: Ernst feels like front-runner, preparing general election pivot

by: desmoinesdem

Tue May 13, 2014 at 09:40:55 AM CDT

State Senator Joni Ernst told the Washington Post last week, "I consider myself the front-runner" for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. I agree, for reasons Bleeding Heartland discussed here--and that was before I knew Ernst had snagged one of the ultimate conservative establishment endorsements: from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In what must be a painful blow to Mark Jacobs, who has made business prowess a cornerstone of his Senate campaign, Chamber of Commerce National Political Director Rob Engstrom said in today's press release,

"Joni understands that big government is an impediment to job creation, and that the best way to turn the economy around and create jobs is through pro-growth economic policies. The U.S Chamber is proud to stand with Joni and highlight her work removing regulatory barriers and encouraging competition in Iowa. In today's economy, that's the type of leadership we need in Washington."

I don't know what work they're talking about--as a first-term state senator in the minority caucus, Ernst hasn't been in a position to remove regulatory barriers or encourage competition. More likely, the Chamber of Commerce settled on Ernst as the most credible alternative to Jacobs.

Over at The Iowa Republican blog, Craig Robinson reviews recent tv ads and campaign spending in the IA-Sen primary. By June 3, Jacobs will have spent more than $1.4 million on broadcast and cable television, plus about $24,000 on radio spots. Based on ad time Ernst has reserved up to now, she will close out the primary race having spent just under $240,000 on broadcast and cable tv. She and her strategists must feel very confident; otherwise they would allocate more campaign funds ($427,201 cash on hand as of March 31) to paid media.

In their Washington Post piece about how Ernst's debut tv ad "transformed Iowa's U.S. Senate race," Philip Rucker and Dan Balz quoted Jacobs supporters Nick Ryan and Doug Gross criticizing Ernst's ads. Her media consultant Todd Harris shot back, "People should remember that Joni is a mom, a grandmother who has volunteered at a crisis hotline, and that part of her bio will be told." Thanks for the preview of Ernst's general election transformation: the pig castrating, Harley-riding, leather-wearing "farm girl" who's going to "unload" on Obamacare will become a mom and grandmother who volunteered at a crisis hotline. I'm surprised anyone with experience comforting victims would use "Make 'Em Squeal" as the main slogan on her t-shirts, bumper stickers and campaign bus. Many Americans instantly recognize that phrase from a rape scene in the movie "Deliverance."

Any comments about the IA-Sen race are welcome in this thread.

P.S. - I think Balz and Rucker should have acknowledged the convenient timing of Ernst's tiny ad buy for the "Squeal" spot. I find it hard to believe that a campaign endorsed by Mitt Romney didn't get any advance warning from the Romney-connected outside groups America Rising and Priorities for Iowa, which dropped a bomb on Bruce Braley just as Ernst launched that attention-getting ad.

UPDATE: The National Rifle Association announced its endorsement of Ernst on May 13. The press release is after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Matt Whitaker catch-up thread, with first tv ad

by: desmoinesdem

Mon May 05, 2014 at 11:57:21 AM CDT

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker was the first Republican to jump into the race for Tom Harkin's Senate seat last year and has been campaigning around the state for nearly a year. However, he launched his campaign's first television commercial just last week, a little more than a month before the June 3 primary. (I'm not counting a tv ad for Whitaker's law firm, which ran in heavy rotation during the Winter Olympics, although I suspect that spot was designed to raise Whitaker's profile.)

After the jump I've posted the video and script for Whitaker's campaign ad, along with highlights from the candidate's first-quarter financial report and his most prominent endorsement so far, from Texas Governor Rick Perry. A separate Bleeding Heartland post will focus on several recent Senate candidate debates. I'm not sure whether Whitaker's forceful debating style will strike Republican voters as strong and principled or overly aggressive.

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IA-04: Democracy for America endorses Jim Mowrer

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 23, 2014 at 08:55:00 AM CDT

Democracy for America announced this morning that it has endorsed Jim Mowrer, Representative Steve King's Democratic challenger in Iowa's fourth Congressional district. I've posted the official statement after the jump. The progressive advocacy group Howard Dean created after his 2004 presidential campaign has 1 million members across the country, including 9,589 members in Iowa. Some of them may be more likely to volunteer for Mowrer knowing he has DFA'a backing.

The group's endorsement should also help Mowrer raise more money from inside and outside Iowa--although he's done quite well in that department already, raising more money than King the last three quarters. Recognizing the strong campaign Mowrer is building, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already flagged IA-04 as an "emerging race" despite the uphill climb for any Democrat in this district.

Democracy for America has previously endorsed five other Democratic U.S. House candidates, including Staci Appel in Iowa's open third district.

UPDATE: I missed this last week; Mowrer informed supporters that his three-year-old son suffers from a rare degenerative neurological disease. Healing thoughts to the whole family.

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IA-01: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:18:31 PM CDT

Since the last quarterly fundraising reports came in, the Republican primary race in Iowa's open first Congressional district has settled into a predictable win for Rod Blum. The Democratic primary is still highly competitive, though, with all five candidates in a position to run a district-wide race before June 3.  
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IA-02: First-quarter fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 17, 2014 at 10:25:00 AM CDT

Three candidates qualified for the Republican primary ballot in Iowa's second Congressional district, but the latest fundraising reports suggest that Mariannette Miller-Meeks will get a third chance at beating Representative Dave Loebsack.

Follow me after the jump for details on the first-quarter reports each candidate in IA-02 filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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IA-03: First-quarter fundraising news roundup (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 17:24:28 PM CDT

Yesterday was the deadline for Congressional candidates to file quarterly reports with the Federal Election Commission. Because so many candidates are running for Congress this year in Iowa, I'm breaking up these posts by district rather than doing a statewide roundup.

After the jump I've enclosed highlights from the first-quarter fundraising and spending reports of Democratic candidate Staci Appel and the six Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the third district. Spoiler alert: one of the GOP candidates is still carrying debt from a previous campaign.

I also added details below on what retiring ten-term Representative Tom Latham is doing with his substantial war chest.

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IA-04: Jim Mowrer out-raises Steve King for third straight quarter

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 07:55:09 AM CDT

If this has ever happened before in an Iowa Congressional race, I'm not aware of the precedent: Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer has raised more money than incumbent Representative Steve King for the third straight quarter in Iowa's fourth district. Not only that, during the first three months of 2014, Mowrer's fundraising eclipsed King's by even more than we saw during the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

Details from the reports both candidates filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission are after the jump.

UPDATE: The Iowa .Gif-t Shop weighs in. I really did laugh out loud.

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Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Iowa's corporate contributions ban

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 09:42:00 AM CDT

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear Iowa Right to Life's appeal challenging a state law that bans corporations from making campaign contributions, Colin Smith reported at the On Brief legal blog. Last summer, a panel for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Iowa's ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates while striking down some of the campaign finance disclosure rules Iowa Right to Life had challenged. You can read Iowa Right to Life's appeal to the Supreme Court here (pdf).

Smith commented,

There had been some interesting speculation that the High Court might decide to hear the plaintiff's arguments regarding the constitutionality of Iowa corporate contribution law on the merits, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court just handed down another blockbuster election law case this month. [...]

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the Tooker challenge to Iowa's corporate contribution ban effectively means that Iowa's law will remain in place for now, although the Court's order today does not necessarily foreclose the possibility that another enterprising plaintiff might try another challenge in the future.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Weekend open thread: Horrible Supreme Court ruling edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 09:05:02 AM CDT

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

So much election-related litigation in the news this past week: the Iowa Supreme Court rejecting Jonathan Narcisse's quest for a spot on the Democratic primary ballot for governor, a Polk County District Court rejecting Ned Chiodo's efforts to knock Tony Bisignano off the ballot in Iowa Senate district 17, and Secretary of State Matt Schultz asking the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling on voter roll maintenance procedures.

I didn't manage to write up the country's most important election law story: on Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits on individual donations to federal candidates and political parties. Click here (pdf) to read Chief Justice John Roberts' majority ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission on behalf of four justices, Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion, and Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Breyer warned that the majority's ruling used "faulty" legal analysis based on "its own, not a record-based, view of the facts." Creating "a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate's campaign," the McCutcheon decision along with the 2010 Citizens United ruling (also a 5-4 split) "eviscerates our Nation's campaign finance laws" in Breyer's view.

Here are some good opinion and analysis pieces on the Roberts decision, from Lyle Denniston at the SCOTUS blog, Garrett Epps at The Atlantic, and Robert Weissman, president of the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen.

Not surprisingly, Iowa's Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley expressed support for the McCutcheon decision, equating money in politics to free speech. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin was discouraged, predicting that the ruling will diminish "public interest in politics" and continue the country's drift toward "more and more influence by the wealthy and those who have money in politics."  

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IA-Sen: Joni Ernst's first tv ad arrives at remarkably convenient time (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:27:40 AM CDT

In what may be merely a coincidence, two stories related to Iowa's U.S. Senate race made a big splash yesterday on national blogs and cable news networks as well as in local media.

In what may be merely a coincidence, State Senator Joni Ernst's campaign released its first television commercial on the same day the 501(c)4 group Priorities for Iowa released a video drawing national attention to a gaffe by Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

In what may be merely a coincidence, several prominent Ernst supporters run that 501(c)4 group, which was created a few weeks after Ernst's campaign launch.

It's common nowadays for candidates' campaigns to spend money spreading positive messages, while outside entities (political action committees, 501(c)4 advocacy organizations, or 527 groups) pay to get the best opposition research into the public sphere. But candidates are not allowed to coordinate messaging or timing with those outside groups.

I'm not saying someone from the Ernst campaign gave Priorities for Iowa a heads-up on when they were planning to release their tv ad. I'm not saying someone from Priorities for Iowa let Ernst staffers know ahead of time when they planned to drop their bomb on Braley. I'm just saying, the clip from a two-month-old speech by the Democratic candidate couldn't have been released at a better time for Ernst to capitalize on her attention-getting "castration" spot.

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