Rod Blum, David Young, and Steve King vote to gut Wall Street regulations

Iowa’s three Republicans in the U.S. House joined almost all of their GOP colleagues today to approve a bill that would “devastate financial regulation.” The Financial Choice Act would “dismantle” many provisions in the 2010 banking reform law known as Dodd-Frank. It passed by 233 votes to 186 (roll call), with Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) among the 233 Republicans who voted yes. Just one Republican joined 185 House Democrats, including Iowa’s Dave Loebsack (IA-02), to oppose the bill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is spinning this bill as a rescue of “Main Street America,” but its key beneficiaries would not be small banks, and its provisions could make millions of consumers and investors into sitting ducks for Wall Street abuses.

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Weekend open thread: Alarming ties between Trump and Russia edition

President-elect Donald Trump continues to assemble a cabinet full of people “who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run.”

But arguably, the scariest news of the week was the political reaction to the Central Intelligence Agency assessment that it is “quite clear” Russia intervened in the U.S. elections with the goal of electing Trump.

Despite what one retired CIA officer described as a “blazing 10-alarm fire,” only four Republican senators have taken up the call for a bipartisan investigation of Russian interference in U.S. elections. For his part, Trump dismissed the CIA’s findings as “ridiculous,” while members of his transition team discredited the agency and leaked news that Trump will appoint a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin as secretary of state.

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The Waterloo Police Department will face no pressure from Trump's administration

The city of Waterloo has agreed to pay $2.75 million this year to settle a wrongful death case and four other lawsuits over excessive uses of force by police. Other officers’ actions toward African-Americans led to an acquittal in a murder trial and will likely inspire more lawsuits. The series of scandals nearly cost Police Chief Dan Trelka his job in September.

After ignoring experts’ advice for many months, Trelka insists he is trying to improve relationships between his department and the African-American community in Waterloo.

Let’s all hope he is sincere, because under Donald Trump’s administration, police misconduct and especially excessive force against black people will face a lot less scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice and its Civil Rights Division.

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Branstad urged Army Corps to give last green light for Bakken pipeline

Governor Terry Branstad denied in September that he’s a friend to Big Oil interests seeking to build the Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline across four states, including Iowa.

But in a move his office did not announce last week, Branstad joined North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to delay approval of the final federal easement needed to complete the pipeline.

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Branstad talks big on family incomes but opposes concrete steps to raise them

Since the day he launched his 2010 campaign for governor, Terry Branstad has been promising to raise Iowa family incomes by 25 percent. That aspiration is still highlighted on the front page of the governor’s website.

Family incomes haven’t increased in any significant way, according to a September 2015 report by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership: “Median household income was $53,712 in 2014 — compared with $53,031 the year before. It was also statistically unchanged from 2007 ($53,994 in 2014 dollars) and from 2000 ($52,483 in 2014 dollars).” U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that as of July 2015, the median family income in Iowa was $52,716.

Despite the lack of progress toward one of his central goals, Branstad has opposed various policies that would raise incomes, especially toward the lower end of the scale.

Most recently, he moved last week to block a new U.S. Department of Labor rule, which would make at least 120,000 Iowans eligible to earn overtime pay.

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Have the Waterloo Police implemented any recommended reforms?

A series of disturbing incidents involving Waterloo police officers came to light this summer through legal settlements, a pending lawsuit, and a criminal trial. The common thread was white police officers using excessive force or offensive language toward African-Americans in Waterloo, the Iowa city with the largest proportion of black residents.

Waterloo Police Chief Dan Trelka announced an investigation into one officer, who laughed at the scene of an 18-year-old’s fatal shooting, called the victim a “dead mother f—-er” and said “we just need a semi-apocalyptic event to get rid of 90 percent of them.”

But Trelka has also accused the media of making too much of the scandals, telling local radio host Bob Bruce last month that negative news coverage obscures great progress being made in the department. Trelka acknowledged “we needed to adjust,” adding that “we have adjusted with changes in policy and training.”

Last year, external reviewers suggested at least ten reforms for the Waterloo Police Department. I have been unable to find evidence that Trelka and his staff acted on any of those recommendations.

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