Joni Ernst won't cross NRA for deal on Violence Against Women Act

Months of work on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which lapsed in February, “came to a screeching halt” this week, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst announced on the Senate floor on November 7.

For 25 years, that federal law has supported “criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.” Congress has reauthorized it three times, each time with improvements. By Ernst’s telling, “Democrats are putting politics ahead of people,” rejecting a bipartisan approach to revive the law in favor of “non-starter” legislation the U.S. House approved in April.

Some salient facts were missing from Ernst’s narrative. The House bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act was bipartisan: 33 Republicans voted for it.

Ernst also left out a few relevant words: guns, firearms, and National Rifle Association.

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IA-02: A strange choice by Mariannette Miller-Meeks

Imagine you’re a newly-elected legislator. Your party leaders think highly enough of you to make you a committee chair right away. It’s a good committee, handling important bills on subjects you care about.

Would you walk away from that post, less than a year into a four-year term, to spend more time running for another office? State Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks just did.

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Iowa Senate district 32 preview: Craig Johnson vs. Pam Egli

Republicans won six Democratic-held Iowa Senate districts in 2016. All of them were among the eighteen Iowa Senate districts where voters had favored President Barack Obama in 2012 but Donald Trump four years later.*

Some of the largest swings toward Trump occurred in northeast Iowa. Parts of four counties make up Senate district 32, where Democrat Pam Egli recently announced that she will challenge first term State Senator Craig Johnson.

While this race does not currently appear to be among the best 2020 pickup opportunities for Democrats in the upper chamber, it could become competitive. Either way, state legislative elections in this part of Iowa will be important to watch for signs of whether Republicans are able consolidate their 2016 gains.

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Charlie Hodges is second Democrat running for Iowa Senate district 20

Two Democrats are now running in Iowa Senate district 20, likely to be one of next year’s most competitive state Senate races.

Information technology professional Charlie Hodges of Urbandale will seek the Democratic nomination in a district covering the northwest suburbs of Des Moines (see map below). Johnston City Council member Rhonda Martin has been campaigning here since May. The winner of the June 2020 primary will face four-term Republican State Senator Brad Zaun.

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Five thoughts about Linda Upmeyer's tenure as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans meet in Des Moines this morning to elect new leaders for the 2020 legislative session. Linda Upmeyer announced on September 30 that she will step down as House speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January and will not seek re-election next November. She said in a written statement that she wants to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Speaking to WHO Radio’s Jeff Angelo on October 1, Upmeyer said she was also influenced by her predecessor Kraig Paulsen’s decision to leave the post long before an election. A new speaker is “well-served” by having a session under their belt, which helps them with fundraising and recruiting candidates, she explained. “I wanted to make sure that whoever was going to be leading the caucus in the future had those tools at their disposal going into this next election.”

Sources close to the legislature indicate that current House Appropriations Committee chair Pat Grassley is likely to become the next speaker, with Matt Windschitl moving up from House speaker pro-tem to majority leader. Current Majority Leader Chris Hagenow may not be part of the new leadership team, for reasons that remain unclear. UPDATE: The caucus selected Grassley as speaker, Windschitl as majority leader, and State Representative John Wills as speaker pro tem.

I’ve been thinking about Upmeyer’s legacy and how she influenced the chamber.

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Highlights: How Iowa's Pete Brownell helped NRA become Russian asset

Pete Brownell, the CEO of the Grinnell-based firearms retailer Brownells, was a key target in a scheme by foreign agents who used the National Rifle Association “to gain access to American conservative organizations on behalf of the Russian Federation,” an eighteen-month investigation revealed. The report by Democratic staff on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee determined that while representing the NRA, Brownell met with sanctioned individuals in Russia in December 2015. That trip helped demonstrate to the Kremlin that Russian government official Alexander Torshin had strong American connections.

In addition, investigators found evidence Brownell went to Moscow “primarily or solely for the purpose of advancing personal business interests, rather than advancing the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.” Maria Butina (who worked closely with Torshin and was later charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation) set up meetings for Brownell with Russian arms manufacturers and retailers and traveled with the Iowan for three days before the rest of the NRA group arrived.

By using the so-called social welfare organization’s resources in this way, the NRA and Brownell may have violated portions of the federal tax code relating to private inurement and excess benefit transactions.

Bleeding Heartland’s efforts to reach Brownell for comment on September 27 were unsuccessful. The media contact for the Brownells company did not return phone calls.

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