Joni Ernst: Trump withholding Ukraine aid "moot," no need to hear witnesses

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has brushed off as “moot” a new finding that the Trump administration broke federal law by withholding security assistance to Ukraine during the summer of 2019.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a January 16 report that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds from the Defense Department. “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.”

Ernst has long advocated increasing our country’s military support for Ukraine. But speaking to Iowa media this morning (audio), she suggested the GAO findings were not relevant, since Ukraine eventually received the assistance Congress approved.

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Reynolds vows action on voting rights backlog before Iowa caucuses

Governor Kim Reynolds promised this week that 347 people who have asked her to restore their voting rights will have their applications reviewed in time for the Iowa caucuses on February 3.

“We’re not where we need to be” on processing those applications promptly, Reynolds acknowledged during a January 7 forum for statehouse reporters, organized by the Associated Press.

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The 19 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2019

Five years ago, I started taking stock of my most labor-intensive posts near the end of each year. Not all of these are my favorite projects, though invariably, some of my favorites end up on these compilations.

Before getting to the countdown for 2019, I want to give another shout out to guest authors who poured an extraordinary amount of work into two posts Bleeding Heartland published last year.

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Latest reform won't help vast majority of Iowans disenfranchised over felonies

On the same day Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear restored voting rights to some 140,000 constituents who previously committed nonviolent crimes, Governor Kim Reynolds rolled out an incremental step to make it easier for Iowans to regain their voting rights after completing a felony sentence.

It was the fourth time the application process has been simplified in nearly nine years since Governor Terry Branstad restored Iowa’s lifetime ban on voting after a felony conviction.

Although the new policy may marginally increase the number of Iowans who can cast a ballot in 2020, it will leave tens of thousands of Iowans unable to vote for years. It’s not clear the governor’s office will be able to process all of the new applications in time for next year’s general election.

Reynolds could mostly solve this problem in a day. She clings to an unconvincing rationale for not doing so.

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Can Iowa fix flawed felon database before 2020 election?

Ten months after the Des Moines Register revealed that “Iowa’s flawed felon list has been disqualifying legitimate voters for years,” and five months after voting rights advocates warned that “Iowa’s voter list maintenance practices are arbitrary and unlawful,” Secretary of State Paul Pate announced an ambitious plan to clean up the felon database.

“The new steps to ensure the system’s accuracy include a manual review of all 90,000 files,” a November 20 news release announced. The goal is to complete the task before next year’s general election.

Several unanswered questions remain about the plan.

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Iowa's Ag department ignored repeated warnings from state auditors

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) has not acted on advice to improve its management of financial transactions and databases “to prevent losses from employee error or dishonesty.”

For ten years running, under three different state auditors, reports have warned Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig or his predecessor Bill Northey that the IDALS accounting system does not conform to best practices and does not ensure that some divisions are collecting and depositing fees appropriately.

IDALS leaders have responded to each report with boilerplate excuses and non-sequiturs, instead of changing internal procedures to address the concerns.

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