Let’s say you are a state senator with strong political aspirations and no moral compass. You can rise to power quickly, if you play your cards correctly. State Senator Charles Schneider (Senate District 22) demonstrated how it pays to sell out your constituents:
1. Protect powerful friends to win allies in the party. If the taxpayers of Iowa have to pay $2.2 million because then Senate Republican leader Bill Dix wrongfully terminated a woman in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, defend the man in power, not the woman who was harassed or the taxpayers who got stuck with the bill.
2. Leverage your allies to gain more power. By protecting the powerful above you, you have allies in your party. Utilize that goodwill to secure your ascension to power. For example, when the majority leader resigns after being caught on camera cheating on his wife with a lobbyist, take advantage of the opportunity to become President of the Senate.
3. Money is everything. Sell out the interests of your constituents. Companies will reward you by funding your political aspirations. Schneider raised $37,112.67 from companies or other non-individual entities after the 2016 election (as of the most recent filings available, covering through July 14, 2018). That’s a lot of money for a senator who does not face re-election until 2020, even one who is Iowa state chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization with an interesting history of its own!
The Correlation between Money and Votes
The $37,112.67 mentioned above came from 54 separate entities whose lobbying arms registered for or against 334 bills during the 87th general assembly* (the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions). Of those, 76 bills had no disagreement between any of the lobbyists of the 54 entities and came to a full floor vote in the senate. Of those 76 bills, Schneider concurred with the lobbyists on 67, or 88 percent. (Note: three of the bills Schneider disagreed with lobbyists on were bills Schneider voted “Yea” on but did not become law in full due to line item veto or not passing the House. Excluding these gives 70 out of 73 bills, or 96 percent agreement) .
Breakdown by Lobbying Groups
Below, I break down these bills and describe where Schneider’s contributions came from and why I think these companies invested in Schneider. I tried to group lobbyists by industry. Note that sometimes lobbyists in one group might disagree with lobbyists in another, so when Schneider disagreed with lobbyists from one group, it might not have been reported in the overall numbers above due to disagreement across groups. Also note that if a lobbyist changed their declaration on a bill (e.g., they were “for” but then changed to “against” or withdrew their declaration), I used their most recent declaration in the descriptions below. Fair warning that what follows necessarily gets in the weeds.
Energy Industry Money: Two donations ($1,000 and $250) from Alliant Energy Employees' Iowa PAC; $500 from MidAmerican Energy PAC; $500 from Golden Grain Energy; $300 from Black Hills Energy Corporation; and $200 from ITC Holdings Corp PAC.
What’s in it for them: SF 2311 was a bill that gutted energy efficiency programs and energy industry oversight. Among the lobbyists for the bill were two lobbyists for Alliant Energy, four lobbyists for MidAmerican Energy, one lobbyist for Black Hills Energy, and two lobbyists from ITC Midwest. Schneider voted for the final version of the bill in a party-line Senate vote. Critics say it will drive up energy fees for consumers and cost Iowans’ jobs.
In all, lobbyists on behalf of the energy companies listed above registered for 32 bills and against one bill in the 87th general assembly. Of those, seven bills came to a full vote in the senate, and Schneider concurred with the lobbyists on all of them (HF 2458, HF 314, HF 445, HF 69, SF 2235, SF 2311, and SF 513).
Financial Industry Money: $1,000 from credit union PAC and $1,000 from Bankers Unite in Legislative Decisions (BUILD)
What’s in it for them: HF 2234 allows banks to foreclose on property about twice as fast as previously allowed by cutting the time a person has to redeem their property. Two lobbyists from the Iowa Bankers Association (the same entity as BUILD) supported the bill. Schneider voted for it.
Overall, lobbyists for the above banking companies filed for eleven bills. Of these, four came to a full vote in the senate, and Schneider concurred with lobbyists on all four of them (HF 2171, HF 2232, HF 2234, and HF 2458).
Principal Money: $1,000 from Principal Life Insurance Company PAC (PRINPAC).
What’s in it for them: Schneider works as an attorney for Principal, a financial investment firm. Rather than recusing himself from decisions that affect the company’s bottom line, Schneider seems to embrace his role as chief legislator for Principal. Principal could gain substantial profit if it secured the contracts of privatized retirement accounts for all public employees. Schneider has led the charge in privatizing the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System (IPERS), even breaking with protocol to invite a libertarian think tank to the Capitol to share their assumptions, which have been proven to be incorrect. Schneider has accepted $7,750 from PRINPAC since 2012.
Lobbyists for Principal registered against nine bills and and for eighteen bills in the 87th general assembly. Of the four bills that reached a floor vote, Schneider agreed on three (HF 2175, HF 2238, and HF 2458). About the bill where Schneider disagreed with Principal…
Two Principal lobbyists originally registered for SF 2316 but later both changed their declaration to against, leaving the following comment, “Principal Financial Group would support this bill if language from amendment H-8397 dealing with small group health insurance were removed”. The amendment H-8397 allowed self-employed persons without employees to qualify for group health insurance coverage. While the amendment was withdrawn, the language made it into what became Section 18 of the bill.
Schneider voted for the bill, which Governor Kim Reynolds later vetoed in whole, saying, "While I am supportive of the underlying bill, I am unable to approve it as amended to include Section 18. Section 18 proposes to allow self-employed persons without employees to qualify for small group health insurance coverage." I guess you could say the governor took a Principal-ed stand.
Healthcare Industry Money: Two donations of $2,500 and $1,000 from Iowa Health PAC; $1,000 from the Iowa Dental PAC; $1,000 from the Iowa Medical PAC; $250 from Iowa Podiatry PAC; Two donations of $500 and $250 from Iowa Optometric Association; $100 from the Iowa Veterinary PAC; $200 from the Iowa Association of Nurse Anesthetists; three donations of $250, $150, and $150 from the Iowa Society of Anesthesiologists; $100 from the Iowa Chiropractic Society PAC; and $200 from the Delta Dental of Iowa PAC.
What’s in it for them: SF 465 was a bill that was drafted by the Iowa Medical Society that caps the amount that can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit at $250,000. Schneider floor managed and voted for the bill, which was lobbied for by the Iowa Optometric Association, two lobbyists for the Iowa Health Care Association, two lobbyists for the Iowa Podiatric Society, three lobbyists for the Iowa Society of Anesthesiologists, and four lobbyists for the Iowa Medical Society. Good luck at your next doctor visit.
Overall, lobbyists for the above health care companies lobbied for or against 76 bills in the 87th general assembly. Of these, lobbyists disagreed on three. Of the remaining 73 bills, fifteen went to a full vote in the senate. Schneider concurred with the lobbyists on eleven of them (HF 2305, HF 2309, HF 2377, HF 2402, HF 2442, HF 2456, HF 2466, HF 2491, SF 2365, SF 2414, and SF 465).
The remaining four were all bills lobbyists opposed but Schneider voted for. They are SF 2316, the bill mentioned above that Principal lobbyists opposed and the governor ultimately vetoed; HF 653, which was item vetoed by the governor; SF 359, the fetal heartbeat bill; and SF 2281, another version of the fetal heartbeat bill, which never made it to a house vote.
Insurance Industry Money: $400 from Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa PAC; three donations of $500, $250, and $250 from Wellmark, Inc. PAC; $1,000 from Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company PAC; and $500 from the Federation of Iowa Insurers PAC.
What’s in it for them: SF 2305 is a workers' compensation bill drafted based on model policy from ALEC, of which Schneider is the Iowa state chair. This bill spends $1.2 million of taxpayer money to create an agency that investigates workers’ compensation claims so that private insurance companies don’t have to. Workers’ compensation fraud is already illegal. Three lobbyists for the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa and three for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company supported the bill. Schneider voted for it.
Lobbyists for the above insurance entities lobbied for or against 33 bills in the 87th general assembly. Of these, fourteen came to a full vote in the senate. On one of these, lobbyists disagreed (SF 2316 - the tort bill opposed by Principal and Healthcare entities above). Of the remaining thirteen, Schneider concurred on eleven (HF 2196, HF 2235, HF 2236, HF 2237, HF 2238, SF 2135, SF 2169, SF 2305, SF 2329, SF 2400, and SF 475). The remaining two were bills Schneider voted for that lobbyists registered against. Neither passed the House (SF 2324 and SF 2357).
Money from the Construction Industry: $2,500 from the Associated General Contractors of Iowa; $1,000 from the Manufactured Housing PAC; $250 from the Homebuilders Association PAC; two donations of $500 each from Master Builders of Iowa PAC; and $250 from the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union #33.
What’s in it for them: Lobbyists for the construction industry registered for SF 2311, the energy bill described above, as well as HF 518, a bill that limits workers’ compensation benefits. But what I find most interesting is SF 413, a bill that shortens the amount of time you have to sue a construction company if they build a defective nuclear power plant or interstate pipeline. That’s an oddly specific bill that frankly frightens me. It was supported by a lobbyist for the Associated General Contractors of Iowa, a lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Iowa, and two lobbyists for the Master Builders of Iowa. Schneider voted for it.
In all, lobbyists for the above construction entities registered for or against 100 bills during the 87th general assembly. Of those they agreed on, 26 bills that came to a floor vote in the senate. Of those 26 bills, Schneider concurred on 23 (HF 2284, HF 203, HF 2195, HF 2232, HF 2233, HF 2240, HF 2256, HF 2286, HF 2304, HF 2343, HF 2458, HF 2478, HF 2480, HF 2494, HF 518, SF 2163, SF 2229, SF 2325, SF 2365, SF 2383, SF 413, SF 497, and SF 505). The three remaining bills were HF 2297, a bill about boiler inspections; SF 2257, a bill about marketplace contractors; and SF 2311, the bill that gutted energy oversight described under Energy Industry above.
Money from Legal Groups: $1,000 from Justice for All PAC and two donations of $200 and $150 from Iowa LawPAC.
What’s in it for them: The above entities registered on behalf of 20 bills, but only 2 came to a full vote in the senate: SJR 2007 -- Schneider concurred with lobbyists when he voted for the bill -- and SF 2305, the ALEC drafted Workers’ compensation bill described under Insurance Industry above. Schneider disagreed with the lobbyists for the legal entities above when he voted for the bill.
Money from Other Industries: $1,000 from Deere & Company PAC; two donations of $1,000 and $500 from Iowa Committee of Automotive Retailers; two donations of $250 each from Iowa Industry Political Action Committee; $500 from the Iowa Telecommunications Association PAC; $500 from Iowa BEV PAC; $1,000 from the Iowa Beverage Association PAC; $250 from the Iowa Cable PAC; two donations of $1,000 and $500 from Hy-Vee, Inc. Employers PAC; $200 from the Iowa Restaurant Association PAC; two donations of $1,000 and $500 from Kum & Go PAC, Inc.; $250 from the DuPont Good Government Fund; $1,000 from the Microsoft Corporation PAC; $500 from Motorola Solutions, Inc. PAC; $500 from CenturyLink Employees’ PAC; and $500 from Truckstops of Iowa PAC.
What’s in it for them: Lobbyists for the above other industries registered for or against 73 bills during the 87th general assembly. Of these, 19 came to a full vote in the senate, and Schneider concurred with lobbyists on 17 (HF 2199, HF 2354, HF 2446, HF 2458, HF 2478, HF 295, HF 518, HF 607, SF 2169, SF 2235, SF 2293, SF 2349, SF 2355, SF 2388, SF 274, SF 376, and SF 516). The remaining two bills were SF 2311, the bill that gutted energy oversight described under Energy Industry above, and SF 431, a bill that was unanimously voted on in both the house and the senate that expands 5g cellular coverage across Iowa. None of the lobbyists left comments, so I’m unsure why they opposed the bill.
Other donations from corporate or other non-individual entities:
$500 from Bridgepoint Education, Inc. PAC, a publicly held for-profit education services company with an interesting legal history. Bridgepoint did not lobby for or against any bills during the 87th general assembly.
$250 from Iowans for a Skilled Workforce a PAC tied to the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees (IACCT). What is surprising about this is the fact that IACCT did not lobby for or against any bill in the legislative session, despite the fact that Schneider floor managed SF 2117, which took $500,000 away from community colleges specifically. IACCT claims to be a non-profit that serves community colleges, but they donated $250 to the person who took $500,000 away from community colleges?
Two donations of $1,000 and $250 from Iowans for Tax Relief PAC. Iowans for Tax Relief registered for or against 25 bills. Only four came to a full vote in the senate, and Schneider concurred with Iowans for Tax Relief on all four (HF 633, SF 2255, SF 2383, and SF 2417).
Two donations of $150 and $100 from the State Police Officers’ Council PAC Fund. It seems strange to me that the one group that Schneider disagreed with the most was the State Police Officers’ Council, but that is the case. The group lobbied for or against nine bills. Three made it to a floor vote in the senate, and Schneider concurred on only one: SF 2389, a bill allowing the DNR to establish fees for camping at state parks. Schneider disagreed with the State Police Officers’ Council on HF 2342, a bill limiting the DNR's ability to seize assets through civil forfeiture (FYI, I think Schneider made the right call here), and SF 2326, a bill Schneider voted for that did not pass the House.
$250 from the Cosmetology Arts and Sciences PAC, which lobbied on behalf of seven bills, none of which came to a full floor vote in the senate. I guess they missed the cut by a hair. (Sorry.)
$161.62 from the Republican Party of Iowa. Pretty uninteresting. Schneider is a Republican.
Two donations of $250 and $150 from LS2group PAC, a public affairs and relations firm whose PAC director, Jeff Boeyink is a former chief of staff to Governor Branstad and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa. I couldn’t find any bills that LS2 lobbied for or against, but Jeff Boeyink lobbied for or against several bills on behalf of several companies. [Editor's note: he was a key lobbyist for Alliant Energy on legislation to undermine efficiency programs.] It’s unknown to me whether Boeyink lobbied on behalf of those companies in his capacity as a partner of LS2 group. Because I can’t be sure these bills represent LS2, Boeyink’s positions are not included in any overall totals above.
Boeyink lobbied on behalf of 86 bills. Twenty of them came to a full vote in the senate, and Schneider concurred on seventeen (HF 2397, HF 2171, HF 2234, HF 2238, HF 2349, HF 631, HF 69, SF 2135, SF 2169, SF 2235, SF 2305, SF 2311, SF 2316, SF 2383, SF 446, SF 502, and SF 516). The three bills Schneider dissented on were SF 2324, which did not pass the house (Schneider voted Yea); HF 2439, a bill that gives Iowa-foaled horses a 3-pound weight allowance in horse races (Schneider voted Yea, Boeyink lobbied against on behalf of Wild Rose Entertainment, LLC); and SF 2333, a bill that raises the allowable retail value of amusement concessions prizes from $100 to $950 (Schneider voted Yea, Boeyink lobbied against on behalf of SCE Partners, LLC, the licensed operator of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino). If these bills were included in the totals above, Schneider would have agreed with lobbyists on 84/96 bills, still 88 percent.
When I searched for companies and other entities, $100 came up under “James S. Cownie, Trustee.” I’m unsure why this came up in that search, but in the interests of full disclosure, every donation that is a part of the $37,112.67 Schneider raised from companies or other non-individual entities after the 2016 election is now itemized above.
*I compared agreement between 54 entities and Schneider with respect to 334 bills. I triple-checked my work, but with so much to check and compare, there may be mistakes. If you find any, please comment below so I can correct the record. As an aside, I couldn’t find an easy way to check a senator’s voting record without pulling up the Senate Journal for each of 334 separate bills. There should be an easier way to do this!