MidAmerican's bid to crush small solar creates strange lobbying bedfellows

MidAmerican Energy’s effort to crush small-scale solar generation made it through the Iowa legislature’s first “funnel” and will be eligible for floor debate in both chambers. The House Commerce Committee on March 4 approved House Study Bill 185 (now renamed House File 669) without amendment on a party-line 12 to 10 vote. The Senate Commerce Committee amended the companion Senate Study Bill 1201 before advancing it on March 7.

The bill will likely pass the upper chamber, where Republicans have a 32 to 17 majority. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats by 54 to 46 in the House, and MidAmerican’s political action committee donated to dozens of incumbents’ campaigns last year, getting the solar bill through the lower chamber will be no easy task. A utility-backed bill to undercut energy efficiency programs was one of the heaviest lifts during the 2018 session. Only after several concessions did supporters cobble together 52 Republican votes in the House. The GOP held 59 seats at that time.

More than three dozen corporations, industry groups, or advocacy organizations have lobbyists registered for or against MidAmerican’s solar bill. While it’s not unusual for a high-profile bill to draw that kind of attention, the two camps seeking to persuade legislators on this issue reflect alliances rarely seen at the statehouse.

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IA-04: Don't bet on Steve King losing his 2020 primary (updated)

U.S. Representative Steve King kicks off a series of public meetings this weekend with an event in O’Brien County. He hasn’t held this kind of town hall in a long time. The newfound commitment to showing up for constituents indicates that King was shaken up by his narrow victory over J.D. Scholten in November. He also faces growing discontent in Republican circles, both in Iowa (where he faces multiple primary challengers) and in Washington, D.C. (where he lost his House committee assignments).

Some commentators have speculated that residents of the fourth Congressional district are ready to move on to a representative with less baggage. For my money, the only way King won’t be the 2020 nominee is if GOP insiders somehow convince him not to seek a tenth term.

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IA-04: Randy Feenstra to challenge Steve King; Rick Sanders thinking about it

Nine-term U.S. Representative Steve King will face at least one challenger in the 2020 Republican primary to represent Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

State Senator Randy Feenstra announced his candidacy today, and Story County Supervisor Rick Sanders confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he is seriously considering the race.

The moves are the clearest sign yet that Iowa’s GOP establishment is tired of King.

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IA-04: Randy Feenstra to challenge Steve King; Rick Sanders thinking about it

Nine-term U.S. Representative Steve King will face at least one challenger in the 2020 Republican primary to represent Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

State Senator Randy Feenstra announced his candidacy today, and Story County Supervisor Rick Sanders confirmed to Bleeding Heartland that he is seriously considering the race.

The moves are the clearest sign yet that Iowa’s GOP establishment is tired of King.

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Watchdog filed IRS complaint against dark money group run by Chris Rants

An advocacy group run by former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants “is operating with the primary purpose of influencing political campaigns” in violation of federal tax code, according to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Last month CREW filed Internal Revenue Service complaints against ten 501(c)(4) groups, which claim non-profit status as “social welfare” organizations but spent a large share of their funds on political activity during the 2014 election cycle. One of them was the Iowa-based Legacy Foundation Action Fund, for which Rants serves as president and secretary. (The fund did not seek to influence any Iowa elections in 2014.) CREW also filed criminal complaints against six of the ten groups for “falsely representing the amount of money they spent on political activity in 2014”; the Legacy Foundation Action Fund was not among them.

Although Rants’s 501(c)(4) does not disclose its donors, CREW was able to determine that most of its 2014 funding came from American Encore, a “secretive” 501(c)(4) group “formerly known as the Center to Protect Patient Rights.” American Encore has been described as “the linchpin” of the Koch brothers dark money network. The Legacy Foundation Action Fund reported $980,000 in “contributions and grants” on its 2014 tax return; $880,000 of that amount came from American Encore.

More details on CREW’s IRS complaint are below. Rants responded via e-mail, “I am confident that Legation Foundation Action Fund is in compliance with the IRS rules. Legal counsel is reviewing the tax returns and we will file any amendment necessary to ensure the tax returns accurately reflected the organizations actives.”

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