AP pulls back curtain on coordination between Ernst aides, dark money

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst introduced a potential major donor to one of her campaign’s fundraisers, who later asked that person for a “an investment of $50,000” in a dark money group backing Ernst’s re-election, Brian Slodysko reported for the Associated Press on December 6.

Slodysko’s scoop uncovered what may be illegal coordination between the Ernst campaign and the Iowa Values group, which can accept unlimited contributions without disclosing donors.

It wasn’t the first time Ernst’s campaign ventured into a gray area.

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A few thoughts on campaign donations and Iowa caucus endorsements

Former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy resigned as state political director for Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign on November 8, a day after Alexandra Jaffe reported for the Associated Press that Murphy “privately offered campaign contributions to local politicians in exchange for endorsing his White House bid, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the conversations.”

Among politically active Iowans, reaction to Jaffe’s scoop ranged from anger to disappointment to a shrug: “Isn’t this long accepted practice?”

No. While presidential hopefuls and their affiliated committees have often donated to Democratic candidates and party organizations, hoping for future support, it is rare for anyone to dangle a possible donation in exchange for an endorsement.

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Iowa campaign regulator searching for new executive director

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board will soon hire a new executive director. Megan Tooker, who has held the position since December 2010, is leaving to pursue unspecified new opportunities, she told Bleeding Heartland on November 4.

The ethics board is one of the smallest state agencies and enforces Iowa law on campaign finance disclosures, government ethics and lobbying the executive branch, and gifts to public officials.

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Joni Ernst tweets about aliens, silent on Trump pushing Ukraine for political gain

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is among Ukraine’s most vocal supporters in Congress. While in college, she visited the Ukrainian Republic of the USSR as part of an agricultural exchange. Now a member of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, she has met with high-level Ukrainian officials in Washington and Kyiv, advocating for the U.S. to “make it clear to Russia that we will stand by Ukraine in the face of unjustified aggression.”

Yet Iowa’s junior senator has been silent this week as multiple news organizations reported that President Donald Trump abused his power to seek political assistance from his Ukrainian counterpart.

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Where are they now? Matt Whitaker edition

Matt Whitaker will become a managing director for the Kansas City-based Clout Public Affairs consulting firm, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News was first to report on August 1. Whitaker served as chief of staff for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for a little more than a year before President Donald Trump named him acting attorney general in November 2018, flouting a federal law and a constitutional requirement that anyone holding that position be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Whitaker stepped down as acting attorney general in February, after the Senate confirmed William Barr. He was “counselor in the associate attorney general’s office” for just a few weeks before leaving the Justice Department in early March. Jacobs tweeted on August 1, “There was speculation Trump would appoint Whitaker to another admin job, but the president so far hasn’t made any moves to do so, I’m told.”

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