An extreme coupon plan

Retired educator Bruce Lear sounds the alarm about a policy some Republican state lawmakers and conservative advocacy organizations want to pursue this year. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There is little doubt, coupons have helped build America consumerism. For some, if there isn’t a coupon, there isn’t a bargain. There is nothing wrong with that approach to shopping. In fact, it has become a hobby for some and even spawned reality TV shows. It’s a choice, and the shopper’s choice alone. It’s really a contract between the shopper and the store.

Now comes the Republican Party with their own coupon offering, but this one has big catch. The coupon is not free in the newspaper or on the internet. It’s paid for by tax dollars. It’s a voucher plan the Republican Party has labeled as an Education Savings Accounts. But don’t be fooled, they can call it anything they like, it’s still a coupon for private tuition paid for by Iowa taxpayers.

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Iowa governor trying to have it both ways on Affordable Care Act

Governor Kim Reynolds continues to take credit for a major benefit of the Affordable Care Act, even as she calls on Congress to repeal and replace the 2010 health care reform law. During today’s Condition of the State address, the governor boasted that compared to a few years ago, “150,000 more Iowans have mental health coverage today and have access to more local and modern service.”

She didn’t mention that those Iowans gained health insurance only because the Affordable Care Act included funding to expand Medicaid.

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How Branstad, other governors were lobbied to weaken 9/11 victims law

Consultants working on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia repeatedly contacted senior staff for Governor Terry Branstad in 2016, seeking his support in lobbying Congress to amend the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

Newly-released correspondence shows Flywheel Government Solutions lobbied several governors who were veterans, saying JASTA posed a threat to American diplomats and military personnel. The foreign agents hoped the governors would sign a letter asking key U.S. senators to address “unintended consequences that set a dangerous precedent for our nation” in the law that allowed survivors of the 9/11 attacks and family members of victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia.

The 28Pages blog previously reported on Flywheel’s work to “Engage and align selected Governors and Lieutenant Governors to take grasstops action, such as writing letters to their respective state’s congressional delegation, to appeal to Congress to repeal JASTA.” I enclose below the talking points and documents presented to staff for Branstad and other governors, including Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Butch Otter of Idaho, Gary Herbert of Utah, and Robert Bentley of Alabama. The Iowa state archives provided those files in response to Bleeding Heartland’s records request.

Neither Branstad nor any other governor signed on to the effort, Flywheel Government Solutions partner Brian Salier told me today, so no such letter was ever sent to senators.

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The 17 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2017

Since I started writing for this website a decade ago, I’ve never worked harder than I did in 2017. This momentous year in Iowa politics provided an overwhelming amount of source material: new laws affecting hundreds of thousands of people, our first new governor since 2011, and a record number of Democrats seeking federal or statewide offices.

In addition, my focus has shifted toward more topics that require time-consuming research or scrutiny of public records. As I looked over the roughly 420 Bleeding Heartland posts I wrote this year, I realized that dozens of pieces were as labor-intensive as some of those I worked hardest on in 2015 or 2016.

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The 17 most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2017

I had mixed feelings about compiling last year’s review of highest-traffic posts. Being hyper-aware of clicks and views can be demoralizing, because the most labor-intensive stories rarely attract the most attention.

On the other hand, it’s fascinating to see what strikes a chord with readers. A preview of stores coming to an outlet mall in Altoona was the fourth most-read Des Moines Register article of 2017. The second most popular New York Times story contained highlights from a boxing match. And this year’s highest-traffic piece at USA Today was about the “kiss cam” at the NFL Pro Bowl.

During an unusually eventful year in Iowa politics, some hot topics at Bleeding Heartland were predictable. But surprises were lurking in the traffic numbers on posts published during 2017 (418 written by me, 164 by other authors).

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Questions remain on Iowa GOP couple's Saudi lobbying, political donations

Connie Schmett was registered as a foreign agent doing work on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through September 2017, a new filing shows. The revelation explains why Schmett and her husband, Kim Schmett, recently disclosed to the federal government a number of donations to Iowa Republican candidates and political committees they had made since March, when their work as consultants for the Qorvis/MSLGROUP previously appeared to have ended.

Several other curiosities related to Connie Schmett’s political giving remain unexplained.

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