Weekend open thread: Accountability

Senator Chuck Grassley hit a new low last week in running interference for the White House on the Trump/Russia investigation. After leaders of the private research firm Fusion GPS called on Congressional Republicans “to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony” about the so-called Steele dossier, Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham wrote to the Department of Justice and the FBI “urging an investigation into Christopher Steele.” Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein was not consulted about the referral, which she accurately characterized as “another effort to deflect attention from what should be the committee’s top priority: determining whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the election and whether there was subsequent obstruction of justice.”

Here in Iowa, the Department of Human Services recently acknowledged that privatizing Medicaid “will save the state 80 percent less money this fiscal year than originally predicted,” Tony Leys reported for the Des Moines Register. The Branstad/Reynolds administration has claimed since 2015 that shifting care for one-sixth of Iowans to private companies would result in big savings for the state. Officials were never able to show the math underlying those estimates. Staff for Governor Kim Reynolds and the DHS now portray the miscalculation as an honest mistake, which a more “comprehensive methodology” will correct. The governor would have been wiser to pull the plug on this disaster last year.

Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will address those failures in more depth. But now it’s time to hold myself accountable for the 17 Iowa politics predictions I made at the beginning of 2017. Did I improve on my showing of seven right, two half-right, and seven wrong out of my 16 predictions for 2016?

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Kim Reynolds should have made one clean break from Terry Branstad

Governor Kim Reynolds made a strategic error by not distinguishing herself from her predecessor in any meaningful way, judging by the new Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom.

Changing course on even one high-profile policy could have demonstrated strong critical thinking and leadership skills. Instead, Reynolds is in effect running for a seventh Terry Branstad term. Unfortunately for her, Iowans are inclined to think it’s “time for someone new” in the governor’s office.

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Republican Brad Hart wins Cedar Rapids mayoral election

Iowa local elections are nominally non-partisan, but Republicans have reason to celebrate attorney Brad Hart’s victory in today’s Cedar Rapids mayoral runoff election. Hart defeated former city council member Monica Vernon by 9,518 votes to 7,995 (54.3 percent to 45.6 percent), according to unofficial results. It’s the third straight win for the GOP in Iowa’s second-largest city. Outgoing Mayor Ron Corbett, a former Republican speaker of the Iowa House, did not seek a third term because he is running for governor.

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Nothing says "civil discourse" like Steve King as your campaign co-chair

“There is no civil discourse left and it is really sad,” Governor Kim Reynolds said yesterday, adding, “We ought to be able to debate ideas because that’s how you get to consensus.” Reynolds lamented the “vitriol” that dominates the current “vicious” political climate.

Today the Reynolds/Gregg campaign announced that Representative Steve King will be a co-chair. A written statement described the governor as “humbled by the endorsement” from a “strong defender of freedom and our conservative values” who is “independent, principled, and is fighting the good fight in Washington, D.C.”

You can posture as a consensus-seeker, or you can brag about support from a walking highlight reel of mean-spirited and dehumanizing rhetoric. Not both.

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IA-Gov: Ron Corbett running first radio ad

Leadership is the theme of Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s opening commercial promoting his gubernatorial candidacy. In the first half of the 60-second spot, a woman whose home was “nearly destroyed” in 2008 says the mayor “delivered” on his promise “to rebuild our city better than ever.”

Corbett then tells listeners, “the floods in Cedar Rapids proved that we can’t wait for things to get better on their own.” Without mentioning current Governor Kim Reynolds, Corbett asserts that “Iowans can’t afford the status quo,” and the state needs “a bold new leader in the governor’s office” to “slash income tax rates and champion conservative solutions.”

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How did Kim Reynolds crunch the numbers to avoid a special session?

Governor Kim Reynolds won’t call a special legislative session to balance the budget for the year that ended on June 30, her office announced this morning.

They haven’t explained how a fiscal year 2017 shortfall that non-partisan analysts estimated at $104 million in July and around $75 million a few weeks ago became a $14.6 million shortfall, according to the governor’s staff.

Reynolds didn’t take questions from the press today. She didn’t even attend the briefing where Department of Management Director Dave Roederer handed out a puzzling table.

Whatever the Reynolds administration did to avert a short-term political problem will likely worsen the strain on the state budget in the coming months.

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