# Exclusive



Miller-Meeks touts ag tech, nuclear power at climate summit

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks advocated for precision agriculture, biofuels, and expanding nuclear power in comments at the recent 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as COP27.

Miller-Meeks attended COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt as part of a delegation of six House Republicans who belong to the Conservative Climate Caucus. U.S. Representative John Curtis of Utah formed that caucus last year with support from fossil fuel industry and influential conservative advocacy groups. Miller-Meeks is the only Iowan among the 76 House Republicans currently listed as Conservative Climate Caucus members.

The Conservative Climate Foundation sponsored the House Republican delegation to COP27 and coordinated a panel discussion for the media. Little is known about that organization’s finances; its tax filings are not publicly available on the Internal Revenue Service’s website or ProPublica’s database of tax returns from 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

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Fourteen Iowa Senate races to watch on election night 2022

Editor’s note: This analysis has been updated with unofficial results from all the races. Original post follows.

The major parties have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the most competitive 2022 Iowa House and Senate races.

This post highlights seven state Senate districts where one or both parties have spent large sums, and another seven where even without a big investment by Democrats or Republicans, the results could shed light on political trends.

All voter registration totals listed below come from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 1. All absentee ballot figures come from the Secretary of State’s office, as reported on November 7. All past election results come from the map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App.

All figures for in-kind spending by the Iowa Democratic Party or Republican Party of Iowa come from filings with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. I focus on in-kind spending, because candidates in battleground Iowa legislative races typically give most of their funds to the state party. The party then covers the bulk of the large expenditures for direct mail and/or television, radio, and digital advertising.

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Gannett prints fake newspapers at Des Moines Register plant

Fake newspapers designed to drive Illinois voters away from Democratic candidates are being printed at the Des Moines Register’s plant, Gannett staff confirmed to Bleeding Heartland.

At least eleven printed publications, which are part of the conservative network Local Government Information Services (LGIS), have been distributed to Illinois residents since August. Sometimes known as “pink slime” journalism, such publications combine political advocacy with stories resembling neutral coverage of local news or sports. The material has the look and feel of a newspaper, but the content is more like political advertising.

Jem Bartholomew of the Columbia Journalism Review was first to report in early October that Gannett had taken over printing of the LGIS products. The previous publisher, which also owns the suburban Chicago newspaper Daily Herald, canceled its commercial printing contract with LGIS in late September, saying “Many critics cannot or refuse to differentiate between a commercial printing operation” and the Herald’s “editorial mission to be unbiased and fair.”

The Des Moines Register’s executive editor, Carol Hunter, had no comment beyond confirming in a November 4 email that “these are commercial print clients.” She provided a statement from Gannett’s corporate communications staff: “We do not discuss our commercial print clients and have no further comment.”

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Iowa governor not even close to keeping one 2018 campaign promise

“If elected, will you commit to weekly press conferences?” a moderator asked during the first debate between Iowa’s candidates for governor in October 2018. “I do it all the time,” Governor Kim Reynolds replied.

Asked again during that campaign’s third debate whether she would hold weekly press conferences, Reynolds claimed to have already made that commitment, adding, “If there’s any ambiguity, I will.”

Bleeding Heartland’s review of the governor’s public schedule reveals she has not come close to keeping that promise for most of the past four years. After a period of greater accessibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reynolds held just four formal news conferences during the second half of 2021. More than 40 weeks into this year, she has held only ten news conferences, the last occurring on July 12.

Reporters with access have sometimes been able to ask the governor a few questions at a “gaggle” after a bill signing or another public event. But most weeks, Reynolds has not scheduled even an informal media availability.

Avoiding unscripted questions on camera gives Reynolds greater control over news coverage of her administration, and keeps awkward moments mostly out of public view.

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Exclusive: Labor relations board shifts staff, cases to other agency. Is it legal?

Iowa’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is transferring most of its staff and caseload to the state Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Since the mid-1970s, PERB members and administrative law judges have adjudicated labor disputes within state and local government or school districts. Following the changes, administrative law judges now working for PERB will handle other matters, while other employees at Inspections and Appeals will hear cases that were previously in PERB’s jurisdiction.

State officials have not announced the changes, which are scheduled to take effect on September 30. It’s not clear who initiated or authorized the plan. Staff in the governor’s office and Department of Inspections and Appeals did not respond to any of Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries over the past three weeks. PERB members Erik Helland and Cheryl Arnold likewise did not reply to several emails.

State Senator Nate Boulton, a Democrat with extensive experience as a labor attorney, has asked Attorney General Tom Miller for an official opinion on whether “it is an illegal shift of an essential PERB duty” to assign its responsibilities “to an unrelated state agency.”

Boulton also asked Miller to weigh in on the legality of Governor Kim Reynolds’ recent appointments to PERB. As Bleeding Heartland previously reported, Reynolds has circumvented the Senate confirmation process by keeping one of the three PERB positions unfilled, so she can name her preferred candidates to a vacant slot while the legislature is not in session.

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Republicans spending big on Des Moines area legislative races

The Republican Party of Iowa has reserved more than $1.1 million in television air time for six candidates seeking Iowa legislative seats in the Des Moines metro area, and will likely spend hundreds of thousands more to promote them on television during the final stretch of the campaign.

Documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission show the GOP plans to spend more than $650,000 on broadcast tv supporting Jake Chapman and Mike Bousselot, who are running in the party’s top two central Iowa Senate targets.

The party also will spend six-figure sums on tv ads for four Iowa House candidates in Polk or Dallas counties, whose commercials began airing last week.

Those numbers do not include any funds the GOP will spend on direct mail, radio, or digital advertising for the same candidates.

This post focuses on early tv spending on legislative races in the Des Moines market. Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will survey other battleground Iowa House or Senate districts.

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