Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Iowa Christian Alliance faces FEC complaint

The Iowa Christian Alliance, headed by Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler, is facing a Federal Election Commission complaint over contributions allegedly run through West Hill United Methodist Church of Burlington. Morris Hurd is pastor of that church and also serves as board president and treasurer of the Iowa Christian Alliance.

The Iowa Christian Alliance is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization, meaning that it can engage in political advocacy on issues, but donations to the group are not tax-deductible. Many houses of worship, including West Hill United Methodist Church, are 501(c)3 non-profits, to which donations are tax-deductible. However, 501(c)3 groups may not engage in political advocacy.

The AP’s Mike Glover summarized the FEC complaint filed last week by Stacey Cargill of West Des Moines:

The complaint charges that Iowa Christian Alliance officials solicited money from potential donors, instructing them to send the money to Hurd’s church, making it tax-deductible. Donations were made with the understanding they would be forwarded to the alliance, the complaint said. […]

In a phone interview, Des Moines lawyer and GOP activist Ted Sporer described a similar process to The Associated Press. He said he wrote two checks to the church.

“The facts are, I was told that if I were to write a check to this church, I would get credit for being a sponsor at Christian Alliance events,” said Sporer. “I was advised that if I wrote the check to the church I would be credited.”

Hurd did not dispute that churches offered financial support to Iowa Christian Alliance.

“There are churches and ministries in Iowa that have supported the ICA and have occasionally contributed to our nonpartisan voter education effort, including voter registration and nonpartisan voter guides,” said Hurd. “They are fully within their right to do so under both the Internal Revenue code and the First Amendment.”

Scheffler told Glover that Cargill “is not dealing with a full deck of cards […] The woman is a troublemaker. She attacks everybody and anybody.”

Cargill filed a previous FEC complaint against the Iowa Christian Alliance, alleging the group allowed a woman to use its office space and database to support presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The FEC rejected that charge in February of this year.

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