Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Iowa legislature pretends to care about money in politics

On March 18 the Iowa House voted 96 to 0 to pass a bill banning candidates from using campaign funds to pay themselves or immediate family members a salary. This measure closes the so-called “Ed Fallon loophole,” named because Fallon received $13,750 from his gubernatorial campaign between June and November 2006 after losing the Democratic primary.

The Iowa Senate approved Senate File 50 in February (also unanimously). Governor Chet Culver is expected to sign the bill and may have done so already, but I did not find confirmation of that on the governor’s website.

Looking at the text of Senate File 50, I noticed that it defines “immediate family member” as “the spouse or dependent child of a candidate.”

I’ve been told that at least 20 members of the Iowa House (including Democrats and Republicans) employ either their spouse or child as a clerk. Apparently it is fine for spouses and children of state legislators to draw a salary from taxpayer dollars, but it becomes a terrible ethical problem for a candidate to draw a salary from money voluntarily contributed by supporters.

I have more to say about this farcical bill after the jump.

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