# Kim Schmett



What the Supreme Court said—and didn't say—in Finkenauer case

The Iowa Supreme Court surprised many in the political and legal worlds on April 15 with a unanimous judgment reinstating U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to the Democratic primary ballot.

Five justices resolved an apparent contradiction between two parts of Iowa’s election law by saying an incorrect or missing date is not a valid reason for not counting a signature on a candidate’s petition. They reversed a Polk County District Court, which days earlier reached the opposite conclusion: that an undated signature cannot be counted, and therefore Finkenauer did not qualify for the ballot.

Two justices concurred with the outcome of reversing the lower court but did not explain their reasoning.

The result was a big loss for Republican plaintiffs who challenged the State Objection Panel’s decision to let three disputed signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions stand. It’s also an embarrassment for Republican legislators who moved last year to limit the panel’s discretion.

By deciding this case on narrow grounds, the Iowa Supreme Court left some big legal questions to be adjudicated another election year.

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Judge rules Abby Finkenauer should be off primary ballot

A Polk County District Court has handed a big win to Republicans seeking to knock Abby Finkenauer off the Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate.

Judge Scott Beattie ruled on April 10 that the State Objection Panel used the wrong legal standard when it counted signatures with missing or incorrect dates. Consequently, the court found, Finkenauer’s campaign “has failed to submit at least 100 signatures from at least 19 counties” as required by Iowa law.

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What is—and isn't—in lawsuit against panel ruling on Finkenauer

Two Republican voters filed suit on March 31 challenging the State Objection Panel’s decision to allow U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to remain on the Democratic primary ballot.

Attorney Alan Ostergren, who has represented Republican candidates and committees in several high-profile election cases, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kim Schmett and Leanne Pellett. They charge that the panel, comprised of Secretary of State Paul Pate, Attorney General Tom Miller, and State Auditor Rob Sand, should have disallowed signatures on Finkenauer’s nominating petitions where voters did not provide the correct date. Doing so would have brought the Democratic front-runner’s campaign below the threshold of 100 signatures in at least nineteen counties.

Sand and Miller voted to allow those signatures to stand; Pate would have sustained the objection to them.

The lawsuit also charges that Sand and Miller should have recused themselves from considering the objection to Finkenauer’s petitions. If the auditor and attorney general had recused, as Ostergren had requested during the panel’s March 29 meeting, Republican statewide officials would have replaced them on the panel, and would surely have ruled against letting Finkenauer compete for the Democratic nomination.

However, the plaintiffs did not raise another argument that Ostergren had argued at length when asking the panel to invalidate signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions, and those filed by two other candidates.

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Foreign lobbying will be off-limits for Iowa officials, employees

Continuing a series on Iowa legislative happenings that attracted little notice while the House and Senate were in session.

State officials will be barred from “any outside employment or activity that requires the person to register under the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act,” under a new law that takes effect on July 1. In addition, applicants for state jobs or nominees for any position that requires Iowa Senate confirmation will have to disclose whether they have ever registered as foreign agents.

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Ethics board clears Schmetts' lobbying, approves fine for disclosure violations

Staff for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB) found no evidence Kim Schmett or Connie Schmett violated state laws on lobbying or conflicts of interest through their outside work as consultants, according to a document prepared by IECDB Executive Director Megan Tooker. However, a review found several omissions on the government officials’ annual personal financial disclosure forms, for which board members approved a reprimand and $250 fine for Connie Schmett. Although staff suggested that the board direct Connie Schmett to stop making campaign contributions under the surname she used during her previous marriage, after a lengthy discussion the board voted that Connie Schmett did not violate state law by donating to candidates and political committees as Connie Russell.

Governor Kim Reynolds requested the review of the Schmetts’ activities in November, following an Associated Press report on the state officials’ work as registered foreign agents lobbying for Saudi Arabia. The board discussed the matter for more than two hours during a January 25 meeting. Following minor revisions, IECDB chair James Albert will sign a letter to Reynolds outlining the board’s findings and recommendations. Tooker distributed a draft letter to reporters during the meeting; I will post the final version as soon as it is available. UPDATE: Enclosed below the letter to the governor, with supporting documents.

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How Branstad, other governors were lobbied to weaken 9/11 victims law

Consultants working on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia repeatedly contacted senior staff for Governor Terry Branstad in 2016, seeking his support in lobbying Congress to amend the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

Newly-released correspondence shows Flywheel Government Solutions lobbied several governors who were veterans, saying JASTA posed a threat to American diplomats and military personnel. The foreign agents hoped the governors would sign a letter asking key U.S. senators to address “unintended consequences that set a dangerous precedent for our nation” in the law that allowed survivors of the 9/11 attacks and family members of victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia.

The 28Pages blog previously reported on Flywheel’s work to “Engage and align selected Governors and Lieutenant Governors to take grasstops action, such as writing letters to their respective state’s congressional delegation, to appeal to Congress to repeal JASTA.” I enclose below the talking points and documents presented to staff for Branstad and other governors, including Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Butch Otter of Idaho, Gary Herbert of Utah, and Robert Bentley of Alabama. The Iowa state archives provided those files in response to Bleeding Heartland’s records request.

Neither Branstad nor any other governor signed on to the effort, Flywheel Government Solutions partner Brian Salier told me today, so no such letter was ever sent to senators.

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