IA-02: Dave Loebsack should spend less on tv, more to elect Iowa Democrats

Six-term U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack will spend more than a million dollars over the next seven weeks running television commercials for a race not seen as competitive by any election forecaster or political advocacy group.

Meanwhile, his campaign has contributed just $125,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated effort to boost candidates running for all state and federal offices.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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IA-01: Republicans really are writing off Rod Blum (updated)

With just seven weeks remaining before election day, “No Republican organization has put money toward TV ads that could benefit” U.S. Representative Rod Blum in Iowa’s first Congressional district, Barbara Rodriguez and Brianne Pfannenstiel reported for the Des Moines Register on September 17. Their analysis of television air time data from Kantar Media showed that groups supporting Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer “have spent or reserved more than $1.2 million for airing political ads” in IA-01. Blum’s campaign has placed $129,000 in television ad buys, and no GOP-aligned groups have indicated plans to advertise in the district.

In many battleground Congressional races, candidates run mostly positive tv ads, while outside groups pay for the hatchet jobs. That normal division of labor won’t be available to Blum. He will have to cover the cost of any negative ads about Finkenauer from his own campaign funds, leaving less money to make an case for himself on the air.

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Ethics, legality and Iowa's governor

Richard Lindgren critiques the way ethics boards dominated by lawyers, such as Iowa’s campaign regulator, typically analyze controversial actions. -promoted by desmoinesdem

A recent Associated Press news story parsed through the repeated practice of Kim Reynolds, current governor of Iowa, of taking trips using planes owned by businessmen who do substantial business with the state. The most recent incident, involving a vendor handling state workers’ compensation claims, was approved by the executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, so it must be ethical, right?

The reality is that ethics boards dominated by lawyers, such as Iowa’s board (the executive director and the board chair are both lawyers), tend to slip into a very bad habit of equating whether an action is ethical based on whether or not it is legal. To use another Iowa example from another agency, there are many hog lots now in rural Iowa that have met the “legality” tests on their placement and practices, but if you ask any adjacent neighbor, the smell is overpowering and undeniable.

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Dave Loebsack is safe, so why is he still voting like a Blue Dog?

U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack voted for yet another bad Republican bill on September 7. Despite being a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Loebsack has long had a less progressive voting record than most of his House Democratic colleagues.

Occasional conservative votes were understandable after Loebsack survived a close call in 2010 and faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside spending on attack ads before the next two general elections. But the last remaining Iowa Democrat in Congress coasted to a sixth term in 2016 with no groups spending money against him. He outperformed Hillary Clinton by about 9 points in the 24 counties he represents. Iowa’s second Congressional district is by common consent a safe Democratic seat this year. As of June 30, Loebsack’s campaign had nearly $2 million cash on hand, while his GOP challenger Christopher Peters had less than $30,000.

Why isn’t Loebsack a more reliable progressive vote in the House?

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Interview: What drives Senator Jeff Merkley

“We need to use every tool we have to reclaim our country,” U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley told me during his latest visit to Des Moines. “We are at the verge of a tipping point, and maybe we’re almost past it, in which the power of the mega-wealthy is so profound that we can’t tip the balance back in to we the people.”

The senator from Oregon spent much of Labor Day weekend in central Iowa supporting Democratic candidates for the state legislature. His fifth trip here since the 2016 election won’t be his last: he will be a featured speaker at the Polk County Steak Fry later this month. During our September 2 interview, I asked Merkley about the most important matters pending in the U.S. Senate, prospects for Democrats in November, and his possible presidential candidacy.

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