A failure to communicate

A special investigation by the State Auditor’s office asserted on June 3 that Governor Kim Reynolds violated Iowa law by using $152,585 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to purchase “online and televised ads containing the Governor’s voice, image, and name.”

Less than 30 minutes after the auditor’s report was published, Reynolds responded in a news release that the law “clearly allows” such use of public money in the context of a public health disaster emergency.

A few hours later, State Auditor Rob Sand defended his conclusions in a new written statement.

My non-lawyer’s reading of the relevant statutes aligns with the governor’s interpretation. But while legal points could be argued, one indisputable fact is that all parties involved should have discussed these findings prior to the report’s publication, instead of duking it out in news releases today.

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Key Iowa GOP lawmaker denies DC group helped write election law

A leading Republican author of Iowa’s new election law has denied that Washington, DC-based Heritage Action for America helped write or pass any part of the bill.

In a leaked video obtained by Documented and published by Mother Jones on May 13, Heritage Action’s executive director Jessica Anderson claimed the group worked “quickly” and “quietly” on the bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed in March, which limits voting in many ways.

State Representative Bobby Kaufmann, who floor managed Senate File 413 in the Iowa House, told Bleeding Heartland in a May 13 telephone interview, “Any insinuation by Heritage that they had anything to do with this bill is a bald-faced lie.”

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Hinson, Miller-Meeks campaigns took disgraced GOP donor's money

U.S. Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-01) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) were among dozens of House Republicans whose campaigns received $5,800 in March from Stephen Wynn, a former Republican National Committee finance chair who resigned in 2018 after former employees alleged sexual harassment or assault.

$5,800 is the maximum amount individuals can donate to federal campaigns for the 2022 election cycle ($2,900 each for the primary and general elections).

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There must have been a better way

Everyone knew Iowa’s State Canvassing Board wouldn’t have the final word on the 2020 election in the second Congressional district when it certified a six-vote win for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks on November 30. Most politics watchers expected Democratic candidate Rita Hart to file for an election contest.

Instead, the Hart campaign announced on December 2 that it will bypass Iowa’s process and appeal directly to the Democratic-controlled U.S. House.

This won’t end well.

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Republicans press weak case against Linn, Johnson absentee mailings

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and four Republican Party entities filed suit on August 12, seeking to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot request forms in two large, Democratic-leaning Iowa counties. The plaintiffs allege Linn County Auditor Joel Miller and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert committed “illegal actions” when they mailed absentee ballot request forms that were pre-printed with voters’ information.

The Republican lawsuit is heavy on political posturing but fails to lay out a convincing legal case.

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Iowa Supreme Court finalists McDermott, Chicchelly, and May, in their own words

After interviewing fifteen applicants, the State Judicial Nominating Commission on March 6 agreed on three nominees for the Iowa Supreme Court: Matthew McDermott, District Court Judge Mary Chicchelly, and Iowa Court of Appeals Judge David May. Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint one of them during the next few weeks.

To the credit of the commissioners, all three finalists are well-qualified to serve. Thanks to a law Republicans enacted in 2019, commission members appointed by either Reynolds or Governor Terry Branstad now outnumber elected attorneys, meaning they had the votes to send less-experienced but politically-connected loyalists to the governor. They did not.

I’ve enclosed below highlights from each finalist’s application and interview, along with some noteworthy comments by three candidates who didn’t make it onto the short list: Brenna Bird, Alan Ostergren, and Sam Langholz.

I felt confident in January that Reynolds would appoint McDermott, because of his past work for the Republican Party of Iowa and close ties to senior GOP officials. Knowing now that the governor’s own legal counsel Langholz has ambitions to serve on the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reynolds pick a different finalist. Langholz’s job involves helping the governor interview and select judges. He has incentive to steer her toward appointing a candidate who has presided over a District Court, to improve the odds of the State Judicial Nominating Commission selecting someone who lacks that experience next time. Reynolds will get at least one more appointment to the high court, because Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel will reach the mandatory retirement age in 2022.

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