Emma Schmit is a member of the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee representing the fourth district. Emma is also chair of the Calhoun County Democrats and webmaster for the Fourth District Democrats.
I’ve always been a proud rural Democrat. But it has never been an easy road in a largely Republican county. We’ve been booed in parades, yard signs have been lit on fire. Canvassers have faced a litany of threats and intimidation – from a gun being brandished to bumper stickers and spark plugs being stolen from a vehicle. While I was working the polls on Election Day 2020, my dad was busy removing my yard signs and window placards because he was worried for my safety.
Despite everything, I’ve always believed that the party was worth fighting for because the party was fighting for me, for Iowa, and for a better future.
However, right now, the party's governing body is failing us.
Three hazardous carbon pipelines, crossing nearly 2,000 miles of land in Iowa, have been announced in the past year. Summit Carbon Solutions, the corporation behind what would be the world’s largest carbon capture project to date, has already filed to use eminent domain.
Our land, our lives, and our futures are under attack, yet the Iowa Democratic Party has remained silent. Or rather, the party apparatus has. Individual legislators, candidates, and State Central Committee (SCC) members have become more vocal in recent weeks. Yet on February 26, a majority of SCC members, the party's governing body, refused to discuss a resolution I offered, calling on the party to publicly oppose the dangerous carbon pipelines proposed for Iowa.
An objection was put forth claiming that the resolution was outside the scope of the SCC’s duties. The objector, Sandy Dockendorff, misrepresented the Iowa Democratic Party Constitution in their motion. A transcript of the public meeting states the reason for dismissing the resolution as:
“In article 6 section A, I.D.P. constitution, it identifies convention as our avenue to do platform discussions. The SCC by-laws have no such language. Therefore, I move that we table indefinitely the discussion on this agenda item as it's inappropriate for this body.”
That is true. The Constitution does identify the Platform Committees as the avenue for platform discussion. However, article 6, section A of the IDP Constitution also places responsibility on the State Central Committee “for enactment of the provisions of the State Party Platform.” In fact, the presenter of the motion completely disregarded subsections A through E, which discuss the SCC’s duties regarding Party Platforms. Subsections B, C, and E are particularly enlightening, so they are included below.
B. Developing proposals for legislative action in keeping with the Iowa Democratic Party Platform
C. Giving guidance to the Democratic Party Leaders and to the Democratic Elected Officials regarding the Iowa Democratic Party’s position on matters of legislative priority or public policy as set forth in the State Party Platform;
E. Additionally, the Committee will provide education on Platform resolution development and submission for the Caucus to Convention Cycle, engage proactively in outreach activities to ensure interested Democrats throughout the State are informed, and provide the SCC with needed updates as to the issues most concerning to constituents.
“I'm against this motion to table indefinitely. I will give a couple of pretty good reasons why. 2018 [State Platform], ratified. [Line] 141 Environmental/public health over corporate profit. [Line] 138, local approval of fossil fuel pipelines. [Line] 188, eminent domain abuse. [...] We are not creating a platform plank. We are doing the will of the body. So that is why I say we should not table this. This is worth discussion.”
Unfortunately, instead of representing the Iowans who elected them, 21 members of the SCC agreed with an unconstitutional, misrepresented motion to kill the resolution. I am not only frustrated with the body, I am ashamed.
Rural Democrats have stuck through hard times, risked our own safety, and passionately fought battles we knew we would lose. All for a Party that has routinely ignored our needs. Democrats need rural votes if they expect to take back Congressional seats, win statewide races, or compete against GOP majorities in the state legislature. Yet, once again, the state party has proven that their interests and priorities don’t include rural constituents.
The proposed carbon pipelines are incredibly risky and unsound. A carbon pipeline rupture can spread lethal levels of carbon gas up to 4.5 miles, asphyxiating or causing long-term brain damage for the people living, working, or driving in the area. The projects are also a greenwashed drain on our tax dollars.
Instead of seeing our public money spent on education, social safety nets, or legitimate climate solutions, these carbon scams will allow multimillionaires like Summit CEO, Bruce Rastetter, to pocket $600 million in tax credits alone each year. Rastetter has donated over $1.5 million dollars to the Republican Party and hired former Governor Terry Branstad as his Chief Policy Advisor.
By staying silent, the Iowa Democratic Party's governing body have told the tens of thousands of Iowans impacted by these carbon pipeline schemes that we do not care. We do not care if your land is stolen by a private company. We do not care that your tax dollars are funding a blatant scam. We do not care if carbon asphyxiates your family. We do not care.
Iowans deserve better. We deserve a party that will fight for us, for Iowa, and for a better future. The Iowa Democratic Party has an opportunity to begin earning back rural trust and rural votes by publicly opposing carbon pipelines. We are watching. We are waiting.
Editor's note: A transcript of the relevant portion of the Iowa Democratic Party's February 26 SCC meeting is here.
Appendix 1: Roll call vote on the motion to indefinitely postpone resolution opposing carbon capture and sequestration
Yes votes (21)
- Susan Bangert
- Sandi Bass
- Vikki Brown
- Jim Bunton
- John Clough
- Catherine Crist
- Scott DeVries
- Sandy Dockendorff
- Eric Donat
- Ryan Drew
- Jeremy Dumkrieger
- Michelle Elliott
- Araceli Goode
- Tom Haugen
- Karen Mackey
- Paula Martinez
- Mary McAdams
- Sandy Opstedt
- Penny Rosfjord
- Sherrie Taha
- Tim Winter
No votes (17)
- Tony Andrys
- Zebulon Beilke-McCallum
- Kim Callahan
- Robyn Clark-Bridges
- Wes Clemens
- Jodi Clemens
- Glenn Hurst
- Leah Jessie
- Brian McLain
- Jan Norris
- Kiran Patel
- C.J. Petersen
- Julie Russell-Steuart
- Emma Schmit
- Shelly Servadios-Elias
- Terry Stewart
- Cecille Thompson
Appendix 2: Full text of resolution that was tabled at the SCC meeting
Resolution from the Iowa Democratic Party to oppose carbon capture and sequestration
WHEREAS, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is currently an unsound, unproven technology; and
WHEREAS, carbon dioxide is a corrosive substance that degrades the structural integrity of a pipeline and substantial amounts of sequestered carbon are proven to leak from underground storage; and
WHEREAS, CCS continues our reliance on fossil fuels and is a false solution to the climate crisis; and
WHEREAS, the Iowa Democratic Party supports a thriving, sustainable agriculture economy and capturing carbon from ethanol facilities demands Iowa’s farmers remain trapped in an unstable, detrimental system of monocropping; and
WHEREAS, tax dollars should be used for the public good, not for subsidizing Wall Street’s risky business ventures; and
WHEREAS, carbon capture projects will provide an insignificant number of jobs to Iowans; and
WHEREAS, the Iowa Democratic Party believes our nation is stronger when we invest in people -- not corporations and the super-wealthy; and
WHEREAS, the safety and well-being of Iowans must come before the private profits of multi-millionaires; and
WHEREAS, a ruptured carbon pipeline is capable of asphyxiating an entire community of Iowans, animals, and plant matter and the long-term health effects of mass carbon dioxide exposure are unknown; and
WHEREAS, private property rights trump the covetousness of the ultra-wealthy and eminent domain should not be used solely for the profit of private corporations; and
WHEREAS, the lives and livelihoods of Iowans must not be threatened by the reckless greed of multi-billion dollar corporations;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Iowa Democratic Party hereby expresses its disapproval for the development and construction of pipelines involved in the carbon capture and sequestration process.
Top image: Nearly 100 people gather in Butler County on February 26 to oppose carbon pipelines. Photo submitted by the author and published with permission.