# Exclusive



Iowa campaign regulator may require attribution for political texts

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board may soon clarify whether state laws on attribution statements apply to some kinds of political text messages, the board’s executive director Zach Goodrich told Bleeding Heartland.

Goodrich plans to draft an advisory opinion that would confirm when text messages are “electronic general public political advertising” subject to Iowa’s law requiring disclosure of who is responsible for express campaign advocacy.

Continue Reading...

Governor still playing musical chairs with employment board

For a second straight year, Governor Kim Reynolds has reappointed Erik Helland to Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) after Helland failed to win Iowa Senate confirmation. In an apparent effort to circumvent the legally required confirmation process, Reynolds appointed Helland to a different position on the three-member board, which adjudicates labor disputes within state and local government or school districts.

She used the same maneuver last summer to name Helland as PERB chair after the Iowa Senate did not confirm him during the 2021 legislative session.

The governor has not filled the now-vacant position of PERB chair, saying in a recent letter to the top Iowa Senate staffer that her administration “has initiated, but has not yet completed, the selection process.” That leaves the board with no quorum; Reynolds has kept one position unfilled since August 2020.

The long-running vacancy allows the governor’s preferred nominees to remain on the board, even if they don’t receive a two-thirds confirmation vote in the state Senate. Asked for comment on Helland’s reappointment, the Democratic senators who reviewed the PERB nominees accused the governor of “a partisan power grab” and “rigging the appointment process so she can get her way.”

Reynolds’ spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to eight inquiries about the PERB appointments between late May and July 28.

Continue Reading...

Exclusive: Iowa trooper crash investigation details remain secret

John Morrissey, a freelance writer in Des Moines, follows up on his coverage of a fatal accident last year.

More than nine months after the crash that killed on-duty Iowa State Trooper Ted Benda, the Iowa Department of Public Safety has nothing more to say about the cause of his death, or its implications. The department’s technical investigation is classified as confidential.

The initial public incident report seems to attribute the accident to the trooper’s driving behavior. That was likely a contributing factor, but was it the sole cause?

The five-month technical investigation into this crash may or may not have considered a poor headlight rating, or higher than average driver death rates for the vehicle involved, as contributing factors. It’s unclear because the technical investigation report will remain secret unless it is sought as part of several exceptions to state law, none of which allow public review.

In response to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries, the department offered no explanation of steps it might have taken since Benda’s death to reduce future risks, such as testing the headlight aim of its Dodge Chargers, or reviewing the crash statistics for its workhorse patrol vehicle, or even providing a “don’t veer for deer” reminder to troopers.

Continue Reading...

Exclusive: New Iowa absentee rules disenfranchised hundreds in 2022 primary

New restrictions on absentee voting prevented hundreds of Iowans from having their ballots counted in the June 7 primary election, Bleeding Heartland’s review of data from county auditors shows.

About 150 ballots that would have been valid under previous Iowa law were not counted due to a bill Republican legislators and Governor Kim Reynolds enacted in 2021, which required all absentee ballots to arrive at county auditors’ offices by 8:00 pm on election day. The majority of Iowans whose ballots arrived too late (despite being mailed before the election) were trying to vote in the Republican primary.

Hundreds more Iowans would have been able to vote by mail prior to the 2021 changes, but missed the new deadline for submitting an absentee ballot request form. More than half of them did not manage to cast a ballot another way in the June 7 election.

The new deadlines will trip up many more Iowans for the November election, when turnout will likely be about three times the level seen in this year’s primary, and more “snowbirds” attempt to vote by mail in Iowa from other states.

Continue Reading...

Who the Iowa Democratic primary voters are

Early voting for Iowa’s June 7 primary begins on May 18. Democrats have one contested race for a federal office (Abby Finkenauer, Mike Franken, and Glenn Hurst are running for U.S. Senate) and one for a statewide office (Joel Miller and Eric Van Lancker are running for secretary of state). There are also many competitive primaries for Iowa House or Senate seats.

Turnout for this year’s primary will likely be much lower this year than in 2020, when Secretary of State Paul Pate sent every active registered voter an absentee ballot request form. In addition, a law Republicans enacted last year shortened Iowa’s early voting window from 29 days to 20 days and made it harder to return a completed ballot in time to have the vote counted.

Even so, more than 100,000 Democrats will likely participate in the June 7 election. I analyzed statistics and results from the last three cycles for clues on who Iowa Democratic primary voters are and where most of them live.

Continue Reading...
View More...