Ethics complaint filed before Miller-Meeks fixed disclosures

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks didn't move quickly enough to correct some obvious problems with her financial disclosure forms.

The Iowa Democratic Party's executive director Erin Davison-Rippey filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics on October 11, highlighting at least four ways in which Miller-Meeks misstated her assets.

First, the complaint says, Miller-Meeks "failed to properly disclose all of her earned income" on her 2019 and 2020 filings as a candidate in Iowa's second district and on her annual report covering 2020. None of those reports listed Miller-Meeks' salary as a state senator. (The Cedar Rapids Gazette flagged that omission in mid-September.) The 2020 candidate report disclosed "$34,646 income earned in 2020 from her state pension and Great River Health Systems," but that income was missing from the annual report covering the same calendar year.

Second, Miller-Meeks allegedly "incorrectly disclosed" a deferred compensation payout from the Great River Health Systems. According to the Iowa Democratic Party, any deferred compensation should have been listed as earned income in a different part of the annual report, and the agreement to pay that compensation should also have been reported. If Miller-Meeks has any ownership interest in the Great River Health Systems, that should also be disclosed.

Third, some investment and retirement accounts that Miller-Meeks listed on her 2020 disclosure as a Congressional candidate were omitted from the 2020 annual report. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, that annual report listed no banking, investment, or retirement accounts, which was difficult to imagine, since Miller-Meeks loaned her campaign $195,000 last year.

Fourth, Miller-Meeks' candidate financial disclosures did not list the underlying assets in her retirement or investment accounts. Any stocks or other holdings should be disclosed so the public can "assess any potential conflicts of interest."

Davison-Rippey requested "an immediate investigation into this matter." In an October 11 news release, Iowa Democratic Party state chair Ross Wilburn said, "Iowans expect transparency and honesty as a bare minimum from their elected representatives." For Wilburn, the Republican's "refusal to comply with basic transparency measures" suggests Miller-Meeks is untrustworthy.

The Daily Iowan's Natalie Dunlap quoted spokesperson Eric Woolson as saying Miller-Meeks "is working with the House Ethics Committee and House Clerk’s office on several substantive questions to resolve the discrepancies of her most recent personal financial report." He added, “This will ensure that her upcoming amended report covers all the necessary bases. We anticipate that the amended report will be filed as soon as her staff receives the answers to those questions.”

Woolson also told the newspaper Wilburn "should focus on issues such as inflation, rather than partisan attacks."

Tell that to the Republican operatives who immediately cut an ad calling Axne "corrupt" after her annual disclosures drew scrutiny. (She filed amended reports last week.) The Republican Party of Iowa issued not one, but two press releases about Axne's disclosure omissions. State party chair Jeff Kaufmann organized a press call where he described the Democrat's mistakes as "deliberate and illegal," "criminal activity," and "political corruption."

I believe both Axne and Miller-Meeks made honest mistakes and were not intentionally hiding assets. But Woolson should not expect others to give his boss the benefit of the doubt when his allies (including not just Kaufmann but also the Iowa GOP's bro-like communications staffer Kollin Crompton) accused Axne of deliberately breaking the law. Miller-Meeks' disclosure errors were in plain view. She should have moved quickly to amend her filings before anyone had time to file a formal ethics complaint.

Ethics complaint filed on October 11 by the Iowa Democratic Party:

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