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campaign finance

Steve King, Joni Ernst donating campaign contributions from white supremacist leader

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jun 24, 2015 at 15:00:00 PM CDT

Representative Steve King and Senator Joni Ernst joined the long list of Republicans who announced plans this week to reject or donate campaign contributions from a white supremacist leader based in Texas. Earl Holt is the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens. That group's publications inspired the racist beliefs of Dylann Roof, who allegedly shot and killed nine people and injured others at last week's attack in a historic black church.

Holt donated $1,000 to King's 2012 re-election campaign and $1,500 to the Republican's 2014 campaign in Iowa's fourth Congressional district. On June 22, King posted this statement on his campaign website:

King for Congress will be donating the amount of past donations received from Earl Holt, President of the Council for Conservative Citizens, to both the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund and to the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Our prayers are with the families and friends of those affected by this tragedy.

Also on Monday, Ernst announced on Simon Conway's WHO Radio show that she will donate $1,000 (the amount Holt donated to her U.S. Senate campaign) to the Charleston church. I didn't see any statement on her Facebook page or campaign website, which at this writing consists only of a landing page seeking contact information and donations from supporters.

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New bipartisan group will battle "overwhelming influence of big money" in Iowa politics

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jun 11, 2015 at 13:28:39 PM CDT

A new bipartisan group emerged this week, on a mission "to educate Iowans on the need for meaningful reform to address the issue of money in politics." Two Democrats, two Republicans, and a no-party voter are co-chairing Iowa Pays the Price. The most prominent co-chair is Brad Anderson, who ran President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign in Iowa and was the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of State in 2014. The Republican co-chairs are Franklin County GOP chair Shawn Dietz, who unsuccessfully challenged State Senator Amanda Ragan in 2014, and David Niffenegger, who directed operations for Sam Clovis' 2014 state treasurer campaign. After the jump I've enclosed the full statement on the Iowa Pays the Price launch and more background on Issue One, the organization behind the Iowa project.

Speaking to Catherine Lucey of the Associated Press, Anderson said,

"I cannot tell you how many doors I knocked on in 2014 where voters said they were so tired of the mudslinging that they were going to sit out the election."

Communications research going back to the 1980s and 1990s has produced mixed evidence on whether negative campaigning on television discourages Americans from voting. My impression is that current opinion among political scientists tends toward the view that negative ads do not depress turnout. However, I suspect the avalanche in outside spending following the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United may have changed the equation, because the relentless attack ads run on television, radio, and social media for many months (rather than just a few weeks before election day). The Iowa Pays the Price press release notes,

According to an analysis by Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics, a record $111,770,953 in federal campaign spending was spent in Iowa in 2014. This represented a 350% increase in campaign spending when compared to the $31,901,404 in federal campaign spending from the previous 2010 midterm election.  In addition, for the first time in Iowa history a majority of the 2014 election spending was by outside groups rather than by candidates' campaigns.

The largest share of that spending was seeking to influence the election for Iowa's open U.S. Senate seat, but substantial outside spending came into play in some of the Congressional districts, especially the IA-03 race between David Young and Staci Appel.

Good resources for hard facts about big money in American politics include Open Secrets, the Sunlight Foundation, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Common Cause.

P.S.- Contra Shane Vander Hart, it's not "hypocrisy" for a person to raise lots of money for his own election race (which must be a priority for candidates under our current system) and to believe that campaign finance reform would improve our political culture.  

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IA-01: Ravi Patel to benefit from Iowa's first candidate-specific super-PAC?

by: desmoinesdem

Thu May 28, 2015 at 09:15:00 AM CDT

Pat Rynard broke an interesting story today at Iowa Starting Line: a super-PAC is being created to support Ravi Patel's campaign in Iowa's first Congressional district. Patel is one of three declared Democratic candidates seeking to challenge Representative Rod Blum. He has already raised a shocking amount of money for a first-time candidate--more than half a million dollars by the end of March. That haul included funds from some 80 people who maxed out to Patel's campaign for the general election as well as for the primary. Congressional campaigns can't spend more than $2,700 from any individual donor before the 2016 primary, but a super-PAC could collect and spend as much as anyone wants to donate, anytime.

Rynard quotes Patel adviser Norm Sterzenbach (a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party) as saying, "There is already one Super PAC operating in this race. EMILY's List came out early with their support of Monica Vernon and we fully expect them to run a considerable independent campaign on her behalf." Yes and no.

EMILY's List did endorse Vernon early. Technically, that group is a regular political action committee, not a super-PAC. The Women Vote! super-PAC is associated with EMILY's List, and it spent quite a bit of money during the last election cycle, but mostly not on expenditures for women in competitive Democratic primaries for U.S. House seats. It remains to be seen how much money EMILY's List will put behind Vernon; I would guess not nearly as much as a super-PAC would spend for Patel or against his rivals. EMILY's List gave $10,000 directly to Staci Appel's 2014 campaign in IA-03 and bundled another $233,283 in contributions to Appel, who had no competition in her primary.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. P.S.- If Rynard's sources are correct, Jeff Link will lead the super-PAC for Patel.  

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Campaign Advice

by: Susan Staed

Tue May 26, 2015 at 19:57:53 PM CDT

(Excellent tips for anyone considering running for the Iowa House or Senate. The author is married to State Representative Art Staed.   - promoted by desmoinesdem)

So you want to run for political office?

I'm going to assume that you're sincere in your professed desire to Make A Difference, and that you truly believe you can Do Better Than the Other Guy/Gal. You seem knowledgeable and eager to get to work. Still, I have some questions for you.

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Highlights from Bernie Sanders' first day as a Democratic presidential candidate

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 30, 2015 at 18:26:39 PM CDT

After serving in Congress for 25 years as an independent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president.  
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Iowa Congressional 1Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 18:21:19 PM CDT

First-quarter financial reports are up for all U.S. House candidates at the Federal Election Commission's notoriously user-unfriendly website.

The big news came from IA-01, where a newcomer to campaigning pulled in one of the biggest single-quarter hauls by a non-incumbent in Iowa history. To my knowledge, the only Iowa challenger who has raised more for a U.S. House race in one quarter than Ravi Patel just did was former First Lady Christie Vilsack in her 2012 marquee race against Representative Steve King. I believe that King is the only Iowa incumbent who has raised more than half a million dollars for a U.S. House race in one quarter; he did it twice during that re-election campaign against Vilsack in a redrawn IA-04.

Follow me after the jump for highlights on fundraising in all four Iowa districts. Bonus points if you can guess which former Iowa Congressional candidate is still carrying debt from two campaigns ago.  

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Nick Ryan puts the writing on the wall for Rick Santorum in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 03, 2015 at 11:41:25 AM CDT

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum has visited Iowa lots of times since (barely) winning the 2012 GOP caucuses, but discouraging signs for his presidential aspirations continue to mount. He has been outshined by Senator Ted Cruz and others at several events drawing large conservative crowds here. One of his former Iowa staffers jumped ship for Cruz before eventually taking a position with former Texas Governor Rick Perry's political action committee. The most recent polls by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics indicated that Santorum is the first choice of only 3 percent or 4 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers.

Yesterday Maggie Haberman of the New York Times broke disastrous news for Santorum: Nick Ryan will lead a super-PAC for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee during the upcoming presidential campaign. Iowa's dark money king is best-known for leading the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, but in 2011 Ryan created and led a super-PAC which spent millions on Santorum's behalf before the presidential caucuses and primaries. He has also had close ties to The Iowa Republican blog's publisher Craig Robinson, who provided mostly favorable coverage to Santorum's campaign before the 2012 caucuses. The Iowa Republican has leaned toward other candidates Ryan favored in past elections, such as Jim Gibbons in the 2010 GOP primary to represent Iowa's third Congressional district and Mark Jacobs in the 2014 U.S. Senate primary.

Ryan aligning with a rival candidate is as significant as longtime Mitt Romney consultant David Kochel joining former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's political action committee a couple of months ago.

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IA-01: EMILY's List backing Monica Vernon

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 09:40:30 AM CDT

A leading political action committee for pro-choice Democratic women has endorsed Monica Vernon in Iowa's first Congressional district. EMILY's List announced their support today in a statement I've posted after the jump. The PAC didn't endorse any of the three women who sought the IA-01 nomination in 2014, but donated $10,000 and bundled another $233,283 to Staci Appel's campaign in IA-03.

Vernon finished second in the 2014 primary and is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination this cycle. However, she may not be the only pro-choice woman in this race. Former State Senator Swati Dandekar, who finished third in last year's primary, is considering another Congressional bid.

Please share any comments about the IA-01 campaign in this thread.

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Three reasons Brad Zaun should give up on IA-03 primary challenge

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 20:40:00 PM CDT

When State Senator Brad Zaun came out "110 percent" behind Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for president recently, I inferred that Zaun probably won't run for Congress again. But this week the Urbandale Republican told the Des Moines Register that he is keeping "all my options open" regarding a primary challenge to Representative David Young.

Iowa Republicans aren't in the habit of seeking my advice, but for what it's worth: Zaun should stop dreaming about representing the third Congressional district.

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Swati Dandekar considering another campaign in IA-01

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 10, 2015 at 16:22:05 PM CDT

Former State Senator Swati Dandekar appears to be leaning toward another run for Congress in Iowa's first district, Richard Springer reported for the India West newspaper yesterday. Follow me after the jump for first thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses Dandekar would take into a second Congressional campaign.  
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Scott Walker's Iowa endorsements: Solid head start or Pawlenty redux?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 09, 2015 at 12:37:53 PM CDT

Late last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rolled out his first batch of prominent Iowa supporters: four Republican state senators and two central Iowa county officials.

The support for Walker follows two recent opinion polls showing him leading the pack of likely presidential candidates among Iowa Republican caucus-goers. If the last presidential campaign is any guide, though, early legislative endorsements tell us nothing about candidate performance on Iowa caucus night.

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Kent Sorenson sentencing delayed as he cooperates with federal investigators

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Feb 20, 2015 at 06:45:00 AM CST

Nearly six months after he pled guilty to receiving hidden payments for endorsing Ron Paul, former State Senator Kent Sorenson still hasn't been sentenced and won't be for some time. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register,

In a [February 19] hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt, attorneys for the government and for Sorenson agreed to delay sentencing in the case until April. The reason, Justice Department lead attorney Robert Higdon Jr. said, was that the government was "engaged" and "making progress" on a "larger investigation" into the 2012 presidential race. [...]

It is unclear exactly who may be the target of the ongoing investigation, but questions have been raised about top aides in Paul's 2012 campaign.

Sorenson received shady indirect payments from Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign for months, but his guilty plea was related to a payment scheme he negotiated with Ron Paul supporters. Russ Choma reported last year for the Open Secrets blog,

Sources say two grand juries are looking into the 2012 campaigns of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), whom Sorenson originally endorsed, and Paul, to whom Sorenson switched his support just days before the Iowa caucuses. A number of individuals confirmed to OpenSecrets Blog that they had been interviewed by FBI agents, the grand juries, or both.

Click through for more speculation on angles federal investigators may be pursuing.

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Democrats should skip Bruce Rastetter's Iowa Agriculture Forum

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 05, 2015 at 17:58:09 PM CST

Seven potential Republican presidential candidates have accepted Bruce Rastetter's invitation to attend an "Iowa Agricultural Forum" in Des Moines next month, Erin Murphy reported yesterday. The seven are Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and national laughingstock sorry, entrepreneur Donald Trump. No doubt more Republicans will show up to be heard as well.

Rastetter also invited U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as well as a half-dozen Democrats who may run for president this cycle or in the future: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former U.S. Senator Jim Webb. So far no Democrats have accepted the invitation.

I hope they all steer clear of this event.

It's a bit late for Rastetter to reinvent himself as some kind of non-partisan elder statesman. He provided the seed money for the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund, which quickly grew into one of the biggest-spending and most deceptive dark money groups on the right. After leading an effort to bring Terry Branstad out of political retirement, Rastetter became the top individual donor to Branstad's 2010 campaign, landing a prestigious appointment to the influential Board of Regents. As a Regent, he has thrown his weight around more than most of his predecessors. In what many viewed as a conflict of interest, Rastetter continued to pursue a business project involving his biofuels company and Iowa State University in an extensive land acquisition in Tanzania. Later, he tried to get the University of Iowa's president to arrange a meeting where biofuels industry representatives could educate a prominent professor whom Rastetter considered "uninformed" about ethanol. Rastetter was also involved in the fiasco that eventually led to Senator Tom Harkin pulling his papers from Iowa State University.

Early in the 2012 election cycle, Rastetter led a group of Iowa businessmen who tried to recruit New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Although he is now cultivating an image as a corporate leader who is above the political fray, he will always be seen as a Republican power-broker in Iowa. I don't see much upside to any Democrat showing up to kiss Rastetter's ring. At best, the national and local reporters covering the Agriculture Forum will write about the "frosty reception" Democratic speakers got from a conservative audience. Or more likely, disruption by hecklers will overshadow any Democratic message on agricultural policy.

Democrats who may run for president will have lots of opportunities this year to address Iowans who might actually listen to them.  

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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)."  
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Iowa Farm Bureau: Voice of Hypocrisy and Big Business

by: Mark Langgin

Mon Dec 01, 2014 at 10:36:57 AM CST

(The facts about the Farm Bureau should be more widely known. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

(*Cross-Posted from Op-Ed by Mike Delaney, President of Citizens for a Healthy Iowa)

As the new year approaches, many of us resolve to better align our actions with our best selves, by supporting organizations that help to build healthier families and stronger communities, and seeking to make our world a better place. This week, against this backdrop, the Iowa Farm Bureau (IFB) hosts its annual convention in Des Moines.

(for the full report and background go to www.FarmBureauExposed.com

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Five political realities that should worry Democrats

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 12:19:45 PM CST

Two weeks after election day, political junkies like me are still processing what happened. Losing control of the U.S. Senate was the most obvious bad outcome for Democrats, but maybe not the most concerning one. The Senate map for 2016 gives Democrats a lot of opportunities to make up ground.

Five other political realities have been bothering me more.  

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Twitter was used in "cutting edge" scheme to evade campaign finance laws

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 23:00:00 PM CST

The Federal Election Commission rarely enforces laws against coordination between political campaigns and groups making independent expenditures for and against candidates. Meanwhile, outside spending is exploding to the point that in some races, independent expenditures dwarf money spent by the candidates.

As a result, each election cycle brings more actions that raise suspicions of campaigns and outside groups coordinating their work. In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Joni Ernst's campaign magically knew exactly when to launch a very small ad buy to maximal effect--on the same day an outside group released a months-old unflattering video of Bruce Braley. Later on, a super PAC came into existence solely to run a $1 million television commercial targeting Braley, and that super PAC just happened to be headquartered in the same office as a senior consultant for Ernst's campaign.

CNN's Chris Moody reported today on a newly uncovered, brazen scheme to share information between campaigns and political advocacy groups. Click through to read his whole piece about Twitter accounts that communicated polling data from competitive U.S. House races.

At least two outside groups and a Republican campaign committee had access to the information posted to the accounts, according to the source. They include American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove; American Action Network, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is the campaign arm for the House GOP. [...]

The accounts that CNN reviewed were active in the months ahead of this month's election, which gave Republicans their largest majority in the House since World War II and control of the Senate. They were live until Nov. 3 but deleted minutes after CNN contacted the NRCC with questions. [...]

The tweets captured by screenshots stretched back to July, but the groups have communicated in this manner for four years, the source said. Staffers for each group deleted individual tweets every few months, so only the past few months of data were available when CNN first viewed the Twitter accounts.

Deleting online content minutes after a journalist starts asking questions sends a strong signal that these operatives knew they were doing something shady. Moreover, Philip Bump noticed that the American Action Network was one of the biggest outside spenders in the Congressional race in Florida's 26th district. That race was the apparent focus of at least one now-deleted tweet containing polling data, which showed a very close race in FL-26.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Iowa Congressional 3Q fundraising news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 20, 2014 at 13:33:28 PM CDT

Catching up on news from last week, the third-quarter campaign finance reports for Iowa's four Congressional districts are all online at the Federal Election Commission's website. My big takeaways:

In the open seat race in IA-01, Democrat Pat Murphy has out-rased Republican Rod Blum, both during the third quarter and in the election cycle to date. But Blum went into the home stretch with a cash advantage, for two reasons: 1) he has put more than $200,000 of his own money into the campaign, and 2) he didn't have to spend heavily before the June primary--unlike Murphy, who had to spend most of the early money he raised to get past four Democratic rivals.

In IA-02, Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack ended the quarter with far more money to spend than his GOP challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks. One reason is that as of September 30, Miller-Meeks had not put much of her own money behind her third Congressional bid. In contrast, she put more than $500,000 into her 2010 Congressional campaign.

In IA-03, David Young would be dead in the water without his personal loans to the campaign and the immense support he is getting from corporate and conservative political action committees. He entered the last five weeks of the campaign with more debts than cash on hand.

In IA-04, Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer out-raised six-term Representative Steve King yet again. Even more impressive, Mowrer raised more from individuals this quarter than any other Iowa candidate for the U.S. House. But King went into the home stretch with more cash on hand, after waiting much longer than Mowrer to start running television commercials.

Follow me after the jump for many more details from all eight major-party candidates' filings. Bleeding Heartland will cover the independent expenditures in to four U.S. House races in a future post. IA-03 continues to be the main focus for outside groups, but more money is coming into IA-01 as well. The bad news for Miller-Meeks is that IA-02 isn't drawing a lot of interest this year, in contrast to 2010.  

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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-03: Republicans try oldest trick in the book against Staci Appel

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 14:42:37 PM CDT

UPDATE: Appel's response ad is here.

For decades, Republicans have tried to win elections by painting Democrats--especially Democratic women--as soft on crime or weak on national defense. So no one should be surprised by the smear at the heart of the National Republican Congressional Committee's latest attack on Staci Appel in Iowa's third district. Taking out of context comments Appel made during her first debate with David Young, the NRCC is claiming Appel supports "passports for terrorists."

Background and details are after the jump, along with the latest ads from both sides. Politico's "Morning Score" reported on September 18 that David Young's campaign has "gone dark"--not airing any television commercials--for the time being. It's not clear whether the Young campaign is running short of funds or simply taking a break while the NRCC does the heavy lifting. Typically candidates will run positive ads while outside groups run attacks. The NRCC already has a positive spot running about Young as well as the misleading ad they've launched against Appel.

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