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Nate Boulton's victim-blaming is harmful and unnecessary

State Senator Nate Boulton responded this week to the misconduct allegations now standing in the way of his full participation in Iowa Senate business next year.

Two of the points he raised would likely have been sufficient to convince Iowa Senate Ethics Committee members to dismiss the complaint against him when they consider the matter on December 20.

Unfortunately, Boulton chose not to leave it there. Most of his written response supports a third argument, seeking to discredit his accuser. The victim-blaming was not only unnecessary, but harmful.

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Grassley, Ernst part ways on five-year Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate approved a new five-year Farm Bill today by 87 votes to 13, sending the conference committee compromise to the U.S. House. The final version rejected efforts to undermine food assistance programs, which House Republicans had approved this summer. Provisions affecting conservation, the environment, and rural communities were a mixed bag; the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Center for Rural Affairs summarized the key points.

Iowa’s senators have rarely voted differently in the past four years, especially on major legislation. But today Senator Chuck Grassley was among the thirteen Republicans to oppose the new Farm Bill. Though he acknowledged some positive features, Grassley could not get past the failure to impose “hard caps on what any one farmer can get,” a reform he’s advocated for many years. He also blasted a “new gimmick” that “makes more subsidies available to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers.”

In contrast, Senator Joni Ernst hailed a “farmer-focused” bill containing several bipartisan provisions she co-sponsored.

I enclose below a video and transcript of Grassley’s speech explaining his vote, as well as Ernst’s full written statement on the bill.

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Iowa DHS withheld records on "fishy" Medicaid deal before election

For weeks this fall, the Iowa Department of Human Services stonewalled a journalist’s request for easily accessible public records that would have cast an unflattering light on management of the state’s Medicaid program.

Three days after Governor Kim Reynolds won the election, the department sent a copy of one key document to Ryan Foley of the Associated Press. DHS released other relevant files on December 6, allowing Foley to confirm Director Jerry Foxhoven had cut a deal in April allowing UnityPoint Health affiliates to keep nearly $2.4 million they had been overpaid for services provided to Medicaid patients.

The settlement agreement came shortly after UnityPoint agreed to remain part of the network for Amerigroup, one of the private companies DHS picked to manage care for Medicaid recipients.

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As criminal probes advanced, Whitaker met with Trump, Kushner

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker met with President Donald Trump and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the morning of December 7, hours before federal prosecutors released three briefs recounting crimes and misconduct by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Cameron Joseph of Talking Points Memo saw Kushner and Whitaker boarding Marine One, the helicopter carrying the president, around 9:00 am. The meeting was improper because Whitaker will continue to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller for at least another month.

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Nate Boulton has no Iowa Senate committee assignments, for now

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen has not assigned State Senator Nate Boulton to serve on any committees during the 2019 legislative session. In a written statement released on December 7, Petersen said, “I will defer making any committee assignments for Senator Boulton until the Senate Ethics Committee completes its ongoing investigation into the complaint filed against him.” In that complaint, filed last month, Sharon Wegner alleged sexual misconduct occurring in 2015, when Boulton was a candidate for the legislature.

Much of the legislature’s work happens in committees, so Petersen’s action will significantly limit Boulton’s ability to influence bills next year.

The move also indicates that Democratic leaders are unlikely to ask Boulton to lead the opposition to high-profile Republican bills during Senate floor debate, as happened several times in 2017 and 2018.

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