# Ethics



Exclusive: Miller-Meeks used taxpayer funds for large radio ad buy

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks spent more than $63,000 from her office budget to pay for radio advertising highlighting top campaign issues for House Republicans. The expenditures, using the “franking privilege” available to all members of Congress, were legal during the five weeks Miller-Weeks bought the ads, taking advantage of a little-noticed provision allowing such taxpayer-funded media promotions.  

Bleeding Heartland’s review of Iowa radio station political files, archived on the Federal Communications Commission’s website, showed Miller-Meeks used franking funds to place 60-second commercials on at least eight Iowa radio stations in August or September.

Staff for Miller-Meeks did not reply to inquiries about the advertising campaign, which marked a departure from how the Republican allocated her office budget during her first year and a half in Congress.

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Exclusive: Ethics board cleared use of state building for SOTU response

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board gave advance approval of Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to deliver a nationally-televised speech on behalf of Republicans from state government property.

Reynolds delivered the GOP response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address from the terrace of the State Historical Building in downtown Des Moines. That part of the facility has been closed to the public all year due to renovations.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs did not charge the governor’s office for the space, which previously cost thousands of dollars to rent. However, documents Bleeding Heartland obtained through public records requests show the Kim Reynolds for Iowa campaign and the CNN television network covered some other costs associated with the State of the Union response.

Iowa law prohibits “the expenditure of public moneys for political purposes.” But a few days before the March 1 speech, the ethics board’s executive director Zach Goodrich assured the governor’s senior legal counsel that based on his understanding of the facts, Reynolds “would not be in violation” of that code section if she spoke from the State Historical Building.

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Matt Whitaker paid well to lobby for Trump pardons

Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker earned $400,000 last year to advocate for President Donald Trump to issue pardons and commutations, Roger Sollenberger revealed in a December 1 scoop for the Daily Beast. The conservative group FreedomWorks, a 501(c)4 organization that does not disclose its donors, reported the expenditure to the IRS as covering “consulting services” for Whitaker, an independent contractor.

FreedomWorks announced in March 2020 that Whitaker would chair a new project “which aims to recommend deserving individuals” for pardons and commutations. Sollenberger noted,

That role raises a number of ethical questions for Whitaker. He was directly involved in White House clemency negotiations possibly as late as Trump’s last full day in office, but never registered as a lobbyist while advocating for pardons—and FreedomWorks never named clemency issues in any of its 2020 lobbying reports.

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Miller-Meeks' revised disclosures still have discrepancies

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) has revised the financial disclosure forms Congressional candidates and members of Congress must submit annually. The new documents mention more than 50 assets, liabilities, or income sources not listed on the 2020 annual report Miller-Meeks submitted in August. The apparent omissions prompted the Iowa Democratic Party’s executive director to file an ethics complaint last month against the first-term Republican.

Despite working with the House Ethics Committee to fix the problems, Miller-Meeks’ latest filings don’t entirely line up.

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Citing misconduct, Iowa governor refuses to fill judicial vacancy

Governor Kim Reynolds has declined to fill a District Court vacancy in northern Iowa, after finding the selection process was tainted by Judge Kurt Stoebe’s “unprofessional” conduct, including favoritism toward one applicant and “significantly misleading comments” that took another applicant out of contention.

In a November 11 letter to members of the District 2B Judicial Nominating Commission, Reynolds explained why she was taking the “extraordinary step” of not proceeding with an appointment, which she said “has been done only once before,” by Governor Bob Ray.

The district nominating commission submitted two names to the governor’s office on October 12. Normally Reynolds would be required to appoint one of those candidates within 30 days. However, the governor wrote, her staff investigated after hearing serious concerns about the commission chair, District Assistant Chief Judge Kurt Stoebe. Several commissioners indicated he gave one applicant extra interview time and “coaching” during the interview.

The commissioners said Stoebe made unprofessional comments about some others who applied for the judgeship.

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