Thoughts on the Iowa Democratic Party's final Jefferson-Jackson dinner

The Iowa Democratic Party held its final Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday night, drawing some 6,000 activists to hear three presidential candidates speak in Des Moines. Last night’s spectacle won’t loom as large over the Iowa caucus campaign as the JJ did in 2007, when it took place in November and the caucuses were scheduled for early January, rather than February. But some new tactics emerged during the speeches by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Hillary Clinton. My thoughts on the evening’s highlights are after the jump.

I am a sucker for hand-made political signs, so I also enclose below my favorite pictures from the crowds in the bleachers. I put "Feel the Bern" in lights up top because I’ve never seen electrified signs at the JJ before.

While I see the value in supporters waving signs (or glow sticks, as many did last night) at a big rally, the "sign wars" some campaigns stage before multi-candidate events have always struck me as pointless. How does it demonstrate "organizational strength" to send a few staffers to put up printed materials in windows or along a road? Why would anyone want their volunteers to stand around yelling for hours before the dinner, rather than saving their energy and voices to show that enthusiasm inside the hall? For those who disagree with me and love the show, Pat Rynard chronicled the morning and afternoon activities by all three campaigns at Iowa Starting Line.

As for why I called it the "final" JJ, the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual fall fundraiser will continue under a to-be-determined name honoring icons considered more inclusive. You can send your suggestion to the state party using this form through February 15, 2016.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Congressional 3Q fundraising roundup

U.S. Capitol photo Fotolia_45139367_XS_zpsfdhhn9cd.jpg

October 15 was the deadline for Congressional candidates to report details on their donations and expenditures between July 1 and September 30 to the Federal Election Commission. Highlights from the FEC filings are after the jump.

I didn’t see any big surprises in this quarter’s fundraising numbers from Iowa, though one challenger raised more money than any of the four U.S. House incumbents, which I don’t ever remember happening before longtime GOP Representative Tom Latham retired in 2014.

None of the incumbents spent lavishly on their campaigns between July and September, but Representative Rod Blum was remarkably thrifty.

Continue Reading...

Weekend open thread: Iowa Wing Ding edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

More than twenty Iowa Democratic county committees put on a great “Wing Ding” in Clear Lake Friday night. The Surf Ballroom was packed to capacity, thanks to appearances by four of the five Democratic presidential hopefuls. Despite a fairly long list of speakers including candidates for U.S. House and Senate and State Senator Amanda Ragan, who was receiving an award, the Wing Ding amazingly finished ahead of schedule. I enclose below my take on all the speeches.

For those following the saga of three former Ron Paul campaign operatives, recently indicted for their role in making illegal payments to then State Senator Kent Sorenson: Russ Choma covered the prosecutors’ latest court filing for Mother Jones. Prosecutors allege the operatives “were prepared to leak documents to harm Sorenson in 2012 if they couldn’t obtain his endorsement for Ron Paul.” An attorney for Jesse Benton acknowledged that in late 2011, his client “threatened to expose Mr. Sorenson, believing that Mr. Sorenson was trying to blackmail the 2012 RP Campaign, if Mr. Sorenson did not make up his mind on whether to commit to the Ron Paul Campaign.” But the lawyer said Benton did not follow through on what he described as “a knee-jerk, emotional reaction.” Of course, there would have been no reason to carry out the threat after Sorenson agreed to take the money in exchange for switching his allegiance to Paul.

Continue Reading...

Background on Kim Weaver, Democratic challenger to Steve King in IA-04

While the four presidential hopefuls attracted the most attention at last night’s "Wing Ding" in Clear Lake, some big Iowa political news preceded their pitches. Kim Weaver delivered her first major speech as a Congressional candidate in the fourth district. Given the smooth delivery, I would never have guessed she hasn’t run for office before.

After telling the audience a little about her background, Weaver talked about some of her key issues: protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; supporting the middle class; raising the minimum wage; fighting to change a “predatory” student loan system; supporting women’s access to health care; immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship; clean water and environmental protections. The packed house frequently applauded, especially loudly when Weaver said, “These are some of the things I stand for. What I stand against is Steve King.” Iowa Democrats love to hate King. Weaver argued the seven-term incumbent “doesn’t represent Iowa values,” citing his offensive comments about immigrants and votes against Katrina aid and even a Farm Bill (because he thought it contained too much hunger assistance).

Weaver’s campaign is online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Her website contains brief statements on most of the issues her stump speech covered. After the jump I’ve posted her announcement video and excerpts from her official bio.

Taking on King is a daunting task for any Democrat. The 39 counties in IA-04 contain 119,020 active registered Democrats, 176,515 Republicans, and 174,355 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Congressional 2Q fundraising news roundup

Congressional candidates were required to file quarterly campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission by the end of July 15. Three of Iowa’s four incumbents have no declared challengers yet, so most of the action was in the first district, where Monica Vernon’s filing removed all doubt that Washington, DC Democrats want her to face first-term Representative Rod Blum, considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress.

Follow me after the jump for details from all of the Iowans’ FEC reports. As happened during the first quarter, one would-be Congressional challenger out-raised each of the four incumbents for the reporting period.

Continue Reading...

House passes first 2016 spending bills: How the Iowans voted

Catching up on Congressional news, last week the U.S. House approved a joint Republican framework setting top-line numbers for the federal budget as well as the first two spending bills for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Along the way, House members considered amendments covering a wide range of issues, from regulations on incandescent light bulbs to "prevailing wage" rules for federal construction projects to medical marijuana advice for Americans who receive their health care through the Veterans Administration.

Follow me after the jump for details on the latest votes by Iowa Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04).

Continue Reading...
View More...