Sara Craig Gongol joins small group of top Iowa women staffers

The first woman elected to our state’s highest office has picked the third woman to serve as an Iowa governor’s chief of staff.

Sara Craig Gongol will replace Governor Kim Reynolds’ current chief of staff Ryan Koopmans, effective December 15. Craig Gongol was a leading campaign strategist for Reynolds this year and has been “a key member of my team” since 2014, the governor said in a December 11 press release.

The appointment inspired me to look into which women have held the top staff position for governors or members of Congress from Iowa. Like Craig Gongol, who ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, several women who managed high-level Iowa campaigns went on to serve as chiefs of staff.

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Grassley, Ernst part ways on five-year Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate approved a new five-year Farm Bill today by 87 votes to 13, sending the conference committee compromise to the U.S. House. The final version rejected efforts to undermine food assistance programs, which House Republicans had approved this summer. Provisions affecting conservation, the environment, and rural communities were a mixed bag; the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Center for Rural Affairs summarized the key points.

Iowa’s senators have rarely voted differently in the past four years, especially on major legislation. But today Senator Chuck Grassley was among the thirteen Republicans to oppose the new Farm Bill. Though he acknowledged some positive features, Grassley could not get past the failure to impose “hard caps on what any one farmer can get,” a reform he’s advocated for many years. He also blasted a “new gimmick” that “makes more subsidies available to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers.”

In contrast, Senator Joni Ernst hailed a “farmer-focused” bill containing several bipartisan provisions she co-sponsored.

I enclose below a video and transcript of Grassley’s speech explaining his vote, as well as Ernst’s full written statement on the bill.

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As criminal probes advanced, Whitaker met with Trump, Kushner

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker met with President Donald Trump and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the morning of December 7, hours before federal prosecutors released three briefs recounting crimes and misconduct by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Cameron Joseph of Talking Points Memo saw Kushner and Whitaker boarding Marine One, the helicopter carrying the president, around 9:00 am. The meeting was improper because Whitaker will continue to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller for at least another month.

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Grassley to chair Senate Finance Committee

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters today that he will lead the Senate Finance Committee in the new Congress. The current chair, Senator Orrin Hatch, is retiring. Grassley’s official website notes,

Senator Grassley calls this committee the quality of life committee because of the committee’s jurisdiction, which includes all tax matters, health care, Social Security; Medicare, Medicaid, social services, unemployment compensation, tariffs and international trade. Legislation acted on by the Committee on Finance raises virtually all federal revenue, and expenditures authorized by this committee represent as much as two-thirds of the federal budget.

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Climbing out of the doughnut hole

Ira Lacher weighs in on the results in Iowa’s third Congressional district. -promoted by desmoinesdem

“Don’t give yourself any kine horas.”

My Yiddish-speaking aunt would admonish me thusly every time I told her of my latest accomplishment. The phrase, loosely translated as Han Solo’s “Don’t get cocky, kid,” was the eleventh commandment in traditional Jewish homes. “Don’t get too full of yourself, because the evil eye is always there to put a curse on you.”

So forgive me if I throw cold water on Cindy Axne’s victory over David Young in the just-concluded midterm election. Looking at the election map, there’s every indication that she — along with others who won overwhelmingly in urban and suburban areas but nowhere else — could be a one-term congresswoman. Unless the Democrats get their act together.

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