# Jeff Kaufmann



Iowa GOP establishment abandons state auditor candidate

When Governor Kim Reynolds made news in May by pleading with supporters to help her get her “own” attorney general and a state auditor who wouldn’t scrutinize her actions, Republican Party of Iowa state chair Jeff Kaufmann defended the appeal. In a written statement, Kaufmann said the governor “should be promoting Republican candidates up and down the ticket,” because “Iowans know how worthless our current state auditor, state treasurer and attorney general have been.”

But since Mary Ann Hanusa (the insiders’ pick for state auditor) unexpectedly lost the GOP primary in June, top Iowa Republicans have done virtually nothing to support the party’s nominee Todd Halbur. He goes into the home stretch of the campaign with little money or media exposure. Meanwhile, the incumbent Rob Sand is on track to spend more than a million dollars on various forms of advertising.

Halbur did not respond to phone or email messages seeking comment on the lack of support from his party, and whether it’s related to the whistleblower lawsuit he filed, naming one of Reynolds’ appointees.

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Grassley, Hinson bash student loan relief, but not other government handouts

Like their counterparts across the country, top Iowa Republicans howled on August 24 when President Joe Biden rolled out a three-pronged student loan relief program.

Speaking at a town hall meeting, Senator Chuck Grassley asserted that it’s “unfair” to forgive some student loans but not help other people who struggle to repay their obligations.

U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson denounced the plan as a “handout to the wealthy and a total slap in the face” to working people who didn’t go to college or already paid off their student loans.

The outrage over student debt relief was striking, since Grassley and Hinson have not objected to some other federal government handouts, which benefited their own families.

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First look at finalized Iowa maps, with incumbent match-ups

Iowa lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Legislative Services Agency’s second redistricting plan on October 28, by 48 votes to 1 in the Iowa Senate and 93 votes to 2 in the House. Democrats had already committed to approving any nonpartisan maps. Republicans liked that this plan (unlike the first LSA proposal) creates four U.S. House districts that Donald Trump carried. It also gives the party an excellent chance to maintain their Iowa House and Senate majorities.

Republican State Senator Ken Rozenboom cast the only vote against the maps in the upper chamber. The plan puts him in the same district as his GOP colleague Adrian Dickey.

In the lower chamber, only GOP State Representatives Tom Jeneary and Jon Jacobsen voted against the redistricting plan. Both are placed in House districts with other Republican incumbents, but Jacobsen told Bleeding Heartland in a telephone interview that’s not why he opposed the plan. Rather, he said the legislative maps carve up Pottawattamie County outside Council Bluffs into several districts represented by incumbents who live elsewhere.

I’ll have more to say about some legislative districts in forthcoming posts. For now, here are the basics about the plan Governor Kim Reynolds will soon sign into law. UPDATE: The governor signed the bill on November 4.

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Ethics complaint a hard lesson for Axne, warning for Miller-Meeks

The non-profit watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed ethics complaints on September 22 against seven members of Congress, including U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (IA-03). The complaints ask the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate four U.S. House Democrats and three Republicans, who did not disclose stock trades within the time frame required by the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. That 2012 law was designed to prevent members of Congress from turning inside knowledge into profit.

For Axne, it was the worst way to find out about a disclosure problem. The ethics complaint generated extensive Iowa media coverage, all of which included quotes from delighted Republicans. For U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), the episode was a heads up to get her own financial disclosures in order before she faces similar scrutiny next year.

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Iowa Republicans have abandoned executive branch oversight

Governor Kim Reynolds has been lucky at key points in her political career. Terry Branstad passed over more experienced contenders to select her as his 2010 running mate, allowing a little-known first-term state senator to become a statewide elected official. Six years later, Donald Trump won the presidency and named Branstad as an ambassador, setting Reynolds up to become governor without having to win a GOP primary first.

Most important, Reynolds has enjoyed a Republican trifecta her entire four years as governor. Not only has she been able to sign much of her wish list into law, she has not needed to worry that state lawmakers would closely scrutinize her administration’s work or handling of public funds.

During the legislative session that wrapped up last month, the GOP-controlled House and Senate rejected every attempt to make the governor’s spending decisions more transparent. They declined to hold even one hearing about questionable uses of federal COVID-19 relief funds or practices at state agencies that disadvantaged thousands of Iowans.

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