Buena Vista County part of DOJ's voter intimidation stunt

Buena Vista County in northwest Iowa is among 35 localities where U.S. Department of Justice personnel will “monitor compliance with the federal voting rights laws” on November 6, the Justice Department revealed this morning. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned, “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”

There is no documented incident of voter fraud in Buena Vista County, just one “accident involving human error” in 2016. So why would the DOJ single out this area for scrutiny?

Like the other jurisdictions the DOJ is targeting, Buena Vista has a large non-white population. Voting rights advocates saw Sessions’ announcement as an effort to intimidate eligible voters.

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Interview: What drives Senator Jeff Merkley

“We need to use every tool we have to reclaim our country,” U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley told me during his latest visit to Des Moines. “We are at the verge of a tipping point, and maybe we’re almost past it, in which the power of the mega-wealthy is so profound that we can’t tip the balance back in to we the people.”

The senator from Oregon spent much of Labor Day weekend in central Iowa supporting Democratic candidates for the state legislature. His fifth trip here since the 2016 election won’t be his last: he will be a featured speaker at the Polk County Steak Fry later this month. During our September 2 interview, I asked Merkley about the most important matters pending in the U.S. Senate, prospects for Democrats in November, and his possible presidential candidacy.

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Iowa political reaction to Trump's family separation policy

Editor’s note: Des Moines Democratic activist Robert Niederklopfer drew the cartoon posted above.

The crisis of some 2,300 children separated from their parents after crossing the southern border of the U.S. reached a tipping point this week. The “zero-tolerance policy” is two months old, but new images of kids locked in cages and heartbreaking sounds of children crying for their parents outraged millions of Americans.

A new national poll suggests voters oppose taking children away from their parents by a two to one margin. Thousands have called their members of Congress to demand action. Former acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Obama administration John Sandweg has warned that many of the separations will end up becoming permanent. Several “tender age” shelters are housing very young children, some unable to talk or remember their parents’ names.

I enclose below comments from leading Iowa politicians on the issue. Most predate the executive order Trump signed today, which will do nothing for families already separated and may not help new arrivals either.

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IA-03: David Young not defending Iowa's medical cannabis law

Carl Olsen is a longtime advocate for expanding access to medical cannabis in Iowa and maintains the Iowans for Medical Marijuana website. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Representative David Young is co-sponsoring federal legislation, the CARERS Act of 2017, H.R. 2920, that would interfere with Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Act of 2017, passed during the closing hours of last year’s legislative session.

And it’s not just Young. Representative Dave Loebsack, Iowa’s only Democrat in Congress, is also co-sponsoring the CARERS Act of 2017.  What is surprising to me as a Democrat is that the Republican representing the first district, Rod Blum, is actually the only Iowa member of Congress that understand federalism.  What I mean by “federalism” is that Blum is representing the people of the state of Iowa rather than federal interference with our new state medical marijuana law.

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Trump won't call out neo-Nazis. Republicans must hold him accountable

What a discouraging weekend for the country. Hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, carrying torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The next day, police mostly stood by while racists (some displaying swastika flags or calling out the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”) clashed with counter-protesters during “the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades.” One of those anti-fascist protesters, Heather Heyer, was killed after a car struck her while driving into a crowd, allegedly intentionally. Virginia state troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died in a helicopter crash while assisting in the law enforcement response to the “Unite the Right” rally.

Many Republican officials, including Iowa’s top GOP leaders, condemned this weekend’s acts of domestic terrorism and racist hatred. But President Donald Trump–long an inspiration to white nationalists and neo-Nazis–deliberately avoided calling out the instigators in Charlottesville.

Politicians who enthusiastically campaigned for Trump and continue to support him must demand much more.

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