As GOP lawmakers threaten free inquiry, governor emphasizes "bottom line"

Herb Strentz: Republican bills to ban tenure at Iowa’s state universities have moved forward in both chambers. Governor Kim Reynolds isn’t concerned. -promoted by Laura Belin

When one surveys the efforts of the Iowa legislature and Governor Kim Reynolds this legislative session, the words “striving for equality” may not come to mind — what with efforts to undercut public education, sabotage access to abortion, punish the LGBTQ community and enact other vindictive measures, as noted by Kathie Obradovich in Iowa Capital Dispatch.

“Equality” does come to mind, however, albeit in an oddball way — the efforts of some legislators to bring Iowans down to their level of what Iowa should be about.

That may be a harsh way to look at Iowa law-making, but it is merited by House File 49 and Senate File 41, proposals to make Iowa the first state in the nation to outlaw tenure at its public universities, in our case Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.

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Governor names Michael Bousselot to lead Iowa's budget agency

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on February 1 that she had selected Michael Bousselot to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Management, effective February 8. That agency handles state budget planning as well as disbursements from Iowa’s general fund and various other funds, such as the Coronavirus Relief Fund and other federal money flows related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The appointment means that loyalists who formerly worked in the governor’s office will head Iowa’s budget and homeland security departments, provided that state senators confirm Reynolds’ nominees.

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State auditor to review Iowa's COVID-19 "strike teams"

State Auditor Rob Sand announced on January 26 that his office will examine the state’s use of COVID-19 “strike teams” involving the Iowa National Guard. A news release noted,

Reports show public record emails in which a metal-working manufacturer owned by major donors to Governor Reynolds received a strike team deployment upon a personal request made to her office, while the same county’s public health department saw its requests for locations with higher needs ignored.

Bleeding Heartland exclusively reported on those emails. In one exchange, an employee of the GMT Corporation in Waverly told Bremer County’s public health administrator, “I requested testing and was told that we would most likely be denied with only one case. Our owners contacted the governor directly and she authorized the testing for us.”

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Exclusive: Governor fast-tracked COVID tests for firm linked to major donor

Governor Kim Reynolds authorized using state resources to conduct COVID-19 tests at a workplace that had only one confirmed case after the company’s owners reached out to her last May.

Iowa National Guard and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) personnel facilitated coronavirus testing at GMT Corporation, a machine parts manufacturer in Waverly, on May 22, 2020. Fewer than a dozen Iowa businesses received such visits during the two months the state’s “strike team” program was active, when coronavirus testing kits were not widely available.

Summit Ag Investors, the asset management arm of Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group, owns a majority interest in GMT. Emails Bleeding Heartland obtained through a public records request indicated, and GMT’s top executive confirmed, that someone from Summit Ag “contacted the governor directly” after GMT staff learned they “would most likely be denied” testing assistance from the state.

Neither Summit Ag executives nor staff in the governor’s office responded to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries.

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IA-04: Bob Vander Plaats adds to bad news piling up for Steve King (updated)

One of Iowa’s most prominent social conservatives has compounded U.S. Representative Steve King’s political problems.

Bob Vander Plaats worked closely with King during the 2010 campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices, and the two were among Senator Ted Cruz’s top Iowa supporters before the 2016 caucuses.

But Vander Plaats just endorsed King’s leading GOP primary rival.

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IA-01: Strong fundraising for Abby Finkenauer and Ashley Hinson

Iowa’s first Congressional district will be among the country’s top-targeted U.S. House races next year. Both the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate this district a toss-up, for good reason. Although voter registration numbers slightly favor Democrats, voters in northwest Iowa swung heavily to Donald Trump and to Republicans for down-ballot offices in 2016.

Three Republican candidates have announced plans to challenge first-term U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer, but at this writing, only State Representative Ashley Hinson appears relevant to the conversation. Thomas Hansen announced his candidacy on May 1, but his first Federal Election Commission filing shows just one donation from the candidate and one expenditure for gas, leaving $18.36 cash on hand. (FEC staff have already dinged Hansen for not filing his campaign’s statement of organization on time.) The third GOP candidate, Darren White, filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC last month but has not filed a July quarterly, indicating that he has not raised or spent any significant sum.

Former U.S. Representative Rod Blum, who lost to Finkenauer in 2018, raised nothing during the second quarter and spent only a token amount to keep campaign e-mail accounts working. Blum paid for some polling during the first quarter and has not ruled out running for Congress again. Republican insiders appear to prefer Hinson, for reasons Bleeding Heartland discussed in detail here.

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