Grassley, Ernst confirm DOJ official with Russia ties, little experience

The new leader of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division has never prosecuted a case and recently represented a major Russian bank aligned with the Kremlin. Nevertheless, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst joined every Republican present (plus one conservative Democrat) to confirm Brian Benczkowski on July 11 as assistant attorney general.

What could go wrong?

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Three Iowa Supreme Court finalists, in their own words

After eight years as an all-male club, the Iowa Supreme Court will soon gain its third ever woman justice.

Members of the State Judicial Nominating Commission submitted three names to Governor Kim Reynolds on July 10: District Court Judge Susan Christensen of Harlan, private attorney Terri Combs of West Des Moines, and District Court Chief Judge Kellyann Lekar of Waterloo. Within the next 30 days, Reynolds must choose one of those women to replace retiring Justice Bruce Zager.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from each finalist’s application and remarks before the commission.

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Only 35 Iowans regained voting rights in Reynolds' first year as governor

Governor Kim Reynolds restored voting rights to 35 Iowans during her first year in the state’s top office. That number represents less than one-tenth of 1 percent of at least 60,000 Iowans who are ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction. Just 241 Iowans–less than one-half of 1 percent of those disenfranchised–have regained their voting rights since Governor Terry Branstad changed the system seven years ago to require a cumbersome application process.

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Hit piece on Matt McCoy cites Bleeding Heartland. Here's the context

Hundreds if not thousands of Des Moines voters received a mailing on May 26 attacking State Senator Matt McCoy, who is challenging incumbent John Mauro in the June 5 Democratic primary for Polk County Supervisor District 5. The piece featured the headline and first two sentences from a ten-year-old Bleeding Heartland post, “McCoy to pay fine to settle ethics investigation.”

That fine stemmed from an illegal contribution to Mike Blouin’s campaign for governor in 2006. But the extortion charge cited in the same mail piece was not proven in court. On the contrary, the case was arguably an abuse of power by then Republican U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker. The third claim in the anti-McCoy mailer seems like a stretch as well.

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Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Iowa lawmakers went home for the year on May 5. In the coming weeks, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work that attracted relatively attention.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments passed both chambers and could appear on the 2020 general election ballot, if the House and Senate approve them in the same form during either 2019 or 2020.

Three other constitutional amendments cleared one chamber in 2017–in one case unanimously–then stalled in the other chamber as lawmakers completed this two-year session. Those ideas may resurface next year. But since changes to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures before landing on the general election ballot (the last step in the process), Iowa voters would not be able to ratify those proposals until November 2022 at the earliest.

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