Laura Belin

Big Thanks | Rated: Up
We asked Carol Hunter about these very issues over 6 weeks ago and she blew us off. She gave a weak answer stating they'd already covered the subject. (and of course, you can't find anything archive-wise any more) This story has been hiding in plain sight for months and I can't express my gratitude enough to you for getting to it. This guy is a linchpin for a lot of what has been thus far a very successful operation by the Putin crew to curry favor out here in the heartland. Nashville NRA guys were chortling about how they the Russians even look like us (yuk, yuk, yuk) Brownell has been a willing conduit and we ignore this at our peril. I'm sending this post to the Register...perhaps they'll take the hint.
There was a time when I would have resented the implication that doing business with Russians is anti-American. Business ties were one way to help a closed-off country join the rest of the world when the Soviet Union fell. So, where exactly did Brownell cross the line? One minute he's a guy who provides jobs in Iowa just trying to sell his stuff, and is keeping business and trade robust and active, even if we don't like what he sells. I guess the problem came when he met with sanctioned individuals, and when he mixed his business dealings with the activities of a not for profit organization. More concerning is if his contact with the Russians facilitated the efforts of Russian individuals to funnel money into American elections, which is illegal. Do we know how much Russian money came into the NRA's coffers? I think we should keep a list of Iowa candidates who accepted NRA money, and who continue to accept NRA money. We need to include Iowa legislative candidates. I noticed some big NRA contributions to at least one Iowa House candidate as far back as 2014. I wonder if the foreign money conduit has been going on for a while? Or did it start in 2015? Thanks for this report.
Unfortunately? | Rated: Up
I'm guessing Devine did not want to know if other justices lobbied the legislators. It was not likely just fortune that prevented his asking the question.
And seriously, Mackinac Island?? Even some of us Iowans know what that island is like and what it costs. And one of my relatives lives in Farmington Hills, which is a suburb of Detroit. Using Farmington Hills as an excuse to meet on Mackinac Island is kind of like using Davenport as an excuse to meet at Lake Okoboji. The political ads about Michael Bergan's membership on this board practically write themselves.
The Iowa noxious weed law has been almost impossible to change over the past few decades, even though the law in its current form is, to put it gently, really awful. (And no one knows that better than Iowa weed professionals.) The political reasons why that law is so hard to change aren't hard to figure out. But now word is slowly spreading among conservationists that native thistles have finally been removed, at least in some sense, via administrative rule, from the state noxious weed list. That includes the three native thistle species that were on both the noxious weed list and also on the state endangered, threatened, and special-concern list. (See what I mean about the weed law being awful?) This was able to happen mostly because of the recent arrival in Iowa of Palmer amaranth, a new and hugely-dreaded weed for rowcrop farmers. It's complicated. But the short version is that those of us who have been secretly sheltering native thistles on our property, because they are beautiful and belong here and are so loved by so many kinds of small wildlife, are more "legal" now. Which is good, because if we Iowans want to help monarchs, goldfinches, bumblebees, and a number of other small beings that are in peril because of human activities, we should welcome more populations of blooming native thistles.
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