Austin Frerick highlights another Iowa Farm Bureau conflict of interest

Congressional candidate Austin Frerick charged today that “extensive investments” in the fossil fuel extraction sector may explain why the Iowa Farm Bureau fails to acknowledge the reality of climate change, despite the well-established impacts of warming temperatures, severe weather events, and increased humidity on Iowa farmers.

The Farm Bureau’s lobbying against proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions hasn’t been as noticeable as its steps to block water quality standards and meaningful state-led or collaborative efforts to reduce soil loss and water pollution from conventional farming. But the organization has also opposed federal and state policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. The American Farm Bureau Federation and its state affiliates lobbied to weaken the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act before a U.S. House vote and helped kill that “cap and trade” proposal in the U.S. Senate. The Farm Bureau’s representative on the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council voted against some recommendations aimed at reducing emissions from the agricultural sector (see pages 103 to 110 of the final report released in December 2008).

In a statement enclosed in full below, Frerick argued that the century-old organization would “be advocating for steps to fight climate change” if it were true to its stated mission of standing for Iowa farmers and rural communities. Instead, the Farm Bureau’s stance tracks with major oil companies in which its for-profit insurance arm has invested.

One of six Democrats seeking the nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, Frerick has focused his message on issues affecting the agricultural sector, particularly economic concentration. Last month he linked Iowa Farm Bureau investments in agribusiness giants to the organization’s failure to oppose consolidation in the hybrid seed market, which raises production costs for grain farmers.

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Are MidAmerican and Alliant trying to kill Iowa's energy efficiency programs?

Josh Mandelbaum advocates for clean energy and clean water policies in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last week Republican State Senator Randy Feenstra introduced Senate Study Bill 3078, one of the worst energy bills introduced at the legislature since I have been working for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The bill would completely eliminate the requirement for utility energy efficiency programs under Iowa law.

Iowa was one of the first states to adopt energy efficiency programs in the early 1990s, and we have been a national leader in energy efficiency since then. These programs are a part of our clean energy leadership, and one reason we have kept our energy rates below the national average. Thanks to a general political consensus on these programs, there hasn’t been much public discussion about energy efficiency in Iowa. Now seems to be the right time to help people understand the value of these policies. As I’ll explain in more detail below, energy efficiency is one of our most important tools for protecting consumers, addressing climate change, and creating local jobs.

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Doug Gross used Des Moines Register to lobby for his law firm's client

Longtime Republican power-broker Doug Gross published two Des Moines Register guest columns within a three-month period criticizing a planned Polk County program to assess the risk of releasing defendants before trial. The BrownWinick partner did not disclose to the newspaper’s editors that his law firm’s lobbying team represents Lederman Bail Bonds, a company that would be adversely affected if fewer low-risk offenders are required to post a cash bond to get out of jail.

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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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Austin Frerick highlights Iowa Farm Bureau's conflicts of interest

Investment revenue gives the ostensibly non-profit Iowa Farm Bureau Federation “a vested financial interest in advocating for policies that hurt Iowa’s farmers,” Congressional candidate Austin Frerick charged today. One of seven Democrats seeking the nomination in Iowa’s third district, Frerick has made economic concentration, especially in the agricultural sector, a central issue of his campaign. He has highlighted the proposed Monsanto-Bayer merger, which would result in two corporations “controlling about three-quarters of the U.S. corn seed market.”

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