Question for Iowa journalists and poll-watchers

UPDATE: Nate Silver followed up here, comparing patterns in Strategic Vision poll findings to those from Quinnipac.

Strategic Vision released a number of Iowa polls during 2007, sampling Democratic and Republican would-be caucus-goers on the presidential candidates.

Did any Iowa journalist or political analyst receive cross-tabs or any details about the methodology from these polls? Does anyone remember talking to any Iowan who had been surveyed by Strategic Vision?

I’m asking because incredibly, polling experts are now questioning whether Strategic Vision has been conducting polls at all. More on that story is after the jump.  

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Local landmark will lose the Archie Brooks name

After “an emotional public hearing,” the Des Moines City Council voted 6-0 today to restore the original name of the Archie Brooks Community Center on the south side:

Brooks, a long-time councilman who was first elected in 1975, pleaded guilty of conspiracy and misappropriation of public money stemming from his role in a payroll scandal at the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, where he once served as board chairman. He was sentenced in January to a year and a day in prison and was ordered to repay $400,000 of the nearly $2 million lost in the scandal.

Some argue Brooks’ actions not only disgraced himself, but shamed the city, while others say decades of public service outweigh any of his admitted misdeeds.

The nice facility will once again be known as the Pioneer-Columbus Community Center.

City Council member Tom Vlassis abstained from today’s vote. He was a CIETC board member when crimes occurred at the agency and has admitted that he was a “rubber stamp” for what CIETC executives wanted.

Most Des Moines residents who contacted City Council members about the matter supported taking Brooks’ name off the community center. However, listening to those who stand by Brooks even now provides a good reminder of how well patronage can work for local political bosses.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. Bonus points if you can explain why the CIETC scandal, involving about $2 million, has generated more intense public outrage than the billions of taxpayer dollars squandered in wasteful, no-bid federal contracts every year.

I suspect this is mainly related to “agenda-setting” by local media that put CIETC on the front page for months. Perhaps some armchair psychologist in the Bleeding Heartland community knows of other reasons why certain crimes involving public money make people angrier than others.

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Review of the 2009 Iowa legislative session (good lobbyist edition)

first in a series on the legislative session that ended on April 26

Last week I planned to highlight this editorial from the Des Moines Business Record, but I didn’t get around to it. Fortunately, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement jogged my memory today by linking to the same piece on the Iowa CCI Twitter feed.

The Business Record’s unsigned editorial advises readers to check “the list of exemptions in House File 712” if you want to know who has the best lobbyists in Iowa:

After a 19-year struggle by Attorney General Tom Miller, after all of the other 49 states took care of this issue, Iowa’s citizens are being granted the right to sue anyone who defrauds them. With some exceptions:

Insurance companies. Attorneys. Financial institutions. Doctors. Veterinarians. Architects. Banks. Retailers that advertise a product with advertising prepared by a supplier. Print publications and broadcast outlets, in connection with the ads they run. Telephone companies. Cable TV providers. Public utilities. Funeral directors. Real estate agents. Charity volunteers. Physical therapists. Optometrists. Anyone whose conduct is permitted by government. And more.

With exemptions like these, who needs the phone number of a lawyer?

Here’s a hint for Democratic legislative leaders: it’s not a good sign when even a business publication is mocking you for protecting businesses at the expense of consumers.

Seriously, what public interest is served by exempting so many industries and businesses from fraud lawsuits filed by individuals? I doubt “frivolous lawsuits” are a big problem in the 49 other states that allow consumers to seek legal remedy for alleged fraud.

The Business Record notes that the bill prevents class action lawsuits from being filed unless the Attorney General’s Office approves. It quotes the bill manager, House Representative Kurt Swaim, as saying the bill will help reduce the backlog of approximately 4,000 and 5,000 fraud complaints Iowans file with the Attorney General’s Office each year.

Swaim said he wished the bill didn’t have so many exemptions. But he said it still would allow consumers to act in the areas that draw the most complaints, such as car repair, home remodeling, debt collection and mortgage brokering.

Sorry, that’s not good enough in my opinion. I know business lobbyists spent a lot of time with Democrats at the statehouse this year, but next session legislators should listen to them a bit more skeptically.

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Some Iraqi Fraud May Yet Go Punished

(I hadn't heard about this development and am pleasantly surprised. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report. Come join the conversation on Rural America, our issues and candidates for the 2010 elections!! City-Slickers welcome too!!

We all remember the no-bid contracts we were so opposed to under the last administration. Now, it has long appeared that all the crimes committed on all levels in this fiasco will go unpunished. Although we are still far from punishing the lies and propoganda unleashed on the American people to start this war, after a court ruling hopefully at least part of the rampant fraud that will cost Americans well over a trillion dollars will be punished.  

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How many good causes will suffer for the failures of the SEC?

By now you have surely read about Bernard Madoff and his $50 billion Ponzi scheme. For background, here’s a collection of New York Times articles on the scandal.

The Securities Exchange Commission is conducting an internal investigation to find out why Madoff’s criminal enterprise went undetected for so long. It’s already obvious that this was a massive regulatory failure.

The SEC was warned about Madoff:

The SEC had the authority to investigate Madoff’s investment business, which managed billions of dollars for wealthy investors and philanthropies. Financial analysts raised concerns about Madoff’s practices repeatedly over the past decade, including a 1999 letter to the SEC that accused Madoff of running a Ponzi scheme. But the agency did not conduct even a routine examination of the investment business until last week.

No one knows yet how many people were involved in helping Madoff conceal his fraud. And while Madoff’s operation was particularly massive, no one knows how many other fraudulent investment firms are out there, because the SEC lacks the resources to enforce compliance with financial securities laws.

Those who had invested with Madoff have lost the entire value of their accounts, and they are not the only victims of his crimes. In fact, Madoff may have indirectly harmed more victims than any other white-collar criminal in history. His clients included many non-profit organizations and charitable foundations, some of which have already ceased operations. Numerous Jewish non-profits have been hit hard, but the fallout will extend far beyond the Jewish community. The Picower Foundation alone gave out tens of millions of dollars in grants every year. Within months, the education, human rights and arts non-profits that relied on those funds are likely to be in financial crisis.

The JEHT Foundation was much smaller than the Picower Foundation but “was a leading supporter of civil rights causes, including groups working to expand voting rights in the South.” Its outgoing president noted when announcing plans to shut down operations that

The issues the Foundation addressed received very limited philanthropic support and the loss of the foundation’s funding and leadership will cause significant pain and disruption of the work for many dedicated people and organizations. The Foundation’s programs have met with significant success in recent years – promoting change in these critical areas in partnership with government and the non-profit sector. Hopefully others will look closely at this work and consider supporting it going forward.

We can hope that others will step in to support the worthy causes whose funders were defrauded by Madoff, but that is extremely unlikely. Just about every grant-making foundation has suffered a significant decline in assets this year because of the stock market’s slide. Individuals of great wealth have also seen their net worth shrink. Non-profit organizations were already bracing for a difficult fundraising year in 2009. The Madoff scandal makes it even more likely that many non-profits will not survive this downturn.

Consider them casualties of “small government” at the SEC, and remember what happened to them the next time conservatives whine about big, bad regulators.  

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