Smithson leaving ethics board to be Iowa House chief clerk

Politics-watchers from both sides of the aisle welcomed yesterday’s news that Charlie Smithson will be the new Iowa House chief clerk:

Smithson has been the Executive Director for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board since 2001 and the board’s attorney since 1998. He previously served as the attorney for the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Raised in Pocahontas, Iowa, Smithson graduated from WestmarCollege in Le Mars before earning a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas.

Smithson has lectured and written several articles on government, ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance as well as contributed to the book,” Money, Politics, and Campaign Finance Reform Law in the United States.” He also teaches election law at the Drake University Law School in Des Moines.

The chief clerk serves as the House Parliamentarian, supervises House personnel and oversees the budget for the lower chamber’s operations.

Smithson will be a tough act to follow at the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. Kathie Obradovich commented,

Smithson has capably led as executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board and has the right personality and reputation for fairness to have immediate credibility in the clerk’s role.

What I’m sorry about is that he won’t be at the ethics board any more. He’s been unfailingly knowledgeable, competent and accessible in a very important role. We can only hope his successor has as strong of an interest in transparency and public access to campaign records. I’m also going to miss Mark Brandsgard, whose dry wit was often the only reward for listening to hours of mind-numbing House debate.

Brandsgard became chief clerk of the Iowa House in early 2009, having held various House staff positions since 1977.

Continue Reading...

Election day in House district 90

Today’s the big day in Iowa House district 90. Latest news from the race:

Beth Dalbey wrote a good feature on the campaign for Iowa Independent. I didn’t realize that Republican candidate Stephen Burgmeier ran for Jefferson County supervisor as a Democrat and later as an independent before switching to the Republican Party.

One Iowa and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund filed a formal ethics complaint against the National Organization for Marriage with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

The NOM claims to be in compliance with Iowa law.

Post any thoughts or election predictions in this thread. I am having trouble making a prediction. This race “should” go to Burgmeier because low-turnout special elections favor the opposition party, and because conservative interest groups have advertised much more heavily in the district. On the other hand, I hear field organizers supporting Curt Hanson on the ground have been doing a tremendous job. I will update this post with my final prediction this afternoon.

I agree with Kathie Obradovich, who argued last week:

This is primarily a local race. So what will the outcome say about the larger political landscape? Republicans have the most to gain and the least to lose. If Burgmeier fails, they can point to the Democratic advantage in the district. If he wins, it will be another boost for GOP voters. It’ll look like a rejection of Culver and the Democrats’ policies.

Still, another State Fair will have come and gone before the general election. Both parties will have a chance to learn from any mistakes in this race, and voters will have long forgotten them. Victory will be as sweet as cotton candy and probably just as long-lasting.

The state of the economy next fall will be much more important for the 2010 Iowa legislative races than whatever happens in House district 90 today.

UPDATE: Trying to be optimistic, but unfortunately I think Burgmeier will win this narrowly (53-47).

Continue Reading...

One day left in House district 90 campaign

Democrats and Republicans were busy in Iowa House district 90 over the weekend, making calls and knocking on doors to GOTV for tomorrow’s special election. Democrats had an early lead in terms of absentee ballots returned, and according to the field organizer for the Fairness Fund, efforts to collect outstanding absentee ballots continued.  We won several Iowa House seats in 2008 through big leads in early voting. A strong absentee ballot showing will be crucial for Curt Hanson, because the national political environment for Democrats is less favorable now than it was last November, conservative interest groups are heavily invested in this race, and same-sex marriage has galvanized the Republican base in Iowa.

Speaking of gay marriage, the National Organization for Marriage has spent nearly $90,000 trying to get Republican Stephen Burgmeier elected. It’s an astronomical sum to spend on advertising in a rural Iowa House district. The group will have to do things differently if they want to get involved in our statehouse races next year:

An out-of-state anti-gay marriage group will likely need to form its own Political Action Committee and disclose its donors if it continues its Iowa activities, a state official warned today. […]

NOM will likely need to disclose future donors if it continues its Iowa activities, Charlie Smithson, the head of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, warned NOM in a letter today.

“I’m not as much concerned with this particular race as I am that Iowa is not going to become a dumping ground for undisclosed campaign contributions,” Smithson said in an interview.  “Anyone can play the game here, but they are going to play within the rules.”

The One Iowa blog has more details and a link to Smithson’s letter. The bottom line is that the National Organization for Marriage will need to form a PAC that discloses donors in order to spend more than $750 on advocacy activities in Iowa. Click here to sign One Iowa’s petition calling on NOM to disclose their funding sources.

If you live in or near House district 90, let us know what you’ve seen in terms of advertising, yard signs, or door hangers for either candidate. I’m also interested to know whether either party has been aggressively contacting the large number of Green and Libertarian voters in the Fairfield area. The Greens would be more inclined to support Democrat Curt Hanson, while I could see Libertarians going either way in this race.  

Continue Reading...
View More...