Koch-backed group taking sides in Iowa House GOP primaries

Americans for Prosperity — Iowa announced its first two endorsements for Republican legislative primaries on January 13. In both Iowa House districts, the candidates backed by the influential conservative lobby group will face more experienced GOP lawmakers in the June 7 primary.

Drew Klein, state director of the Koch-funded network‘s Iowa chapter, declined to comment for the record about the reasons underlying AFP — Iowa’s 2022 primary endorsements. AFP lobbies for or against dozens of bills Iowa lawmakers consider every year. The group’s priorities include tax cuts, undermining public sector unions, reducing occupational licensing requirements, and various measures to redirect public funds away from public schools.

AFP is backing Zach Dieken in the new House district 5, where State Representative Dennis Bush is seeking re-election, and first-term State Representative Steven Bradley in the new House district 66, where six-term State Representative Lee Hein is also running. The group is already publicizing its endorsements in Facebook ads.

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Donald Trump unlocked revolving door for Terry Branstad

Former U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad and his former chief of staff in Beijing, Steve Churchill, recently formed a consulting group to provide “strategic insight and solutions to corporate leaders and investors conducting business in China and the United States.”

Countless former diplomats who served presidents of both parties have traveled the same path after leaving government service. Thanks to former President Donald Trump, Branstad was able to start cashing in a year early.

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Matt Whitaker paid well to lobby for Trump pardons

Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker earned $400,000 last year to advocate for President Donald Trump to issue pardons and commutations, Roger Sollenberger revealed in a December 1 scoop for the Daily Beast. The conservative group FreedomWorks, a 501(c)4 organization that does not disclose its donors, reported the expenditure to the IRS as covering “consulting services” for Whitaker, an independent contractor.

FreedomWorks announced in March 2020 that Whitaker would chair a new project “which aims to recommend deserving individuals” for pardons and commutations. Sollenberger noted,

That role raises a number of ethical questions for Whitaker. He was directly involved in White House clemency negotiations possibly as late as Trump’s last full day in office, but never registered as a lobbyist while advocating for pardons—and FreedomWorks never named clemency issues in any of its 2020 lobbying reports.

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House Ethics panel deadlocks over Heritage Action complaints

Voting along party lines, the Iowa House Ethics Committee failed to take action October 5 on two complaints relating to possible undisclosed lobbying by the national conservative group Heritage Action.

Democratic State Representative Todd Prichard filed the complaints in May after a leaked video showed Heritage Action’s executive director Jessica Anderson boasting that the group had worked “quickly” and “quietly” with Iowa lawmakers to help draft and pass a new election bill. In the complaints, Prichard asserted that Anderson and Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Reform Initiative, violated the Iowa legislature’s lobbying rules by not registering as lobbyists.

Key Republican lawmakers have denied that Heritage Action influenced the new election law’s provisions.

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Investigation found no Heritage Action lobbying of Iowa governor

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board on August 12 formally closed its investigation of Heritage Action for America, after finding no evidence the national conservative group lobbied Governor Kim Reynolds’ office earlier this year.

The board, which is charged with enforcing state laws on lobbying the executive branch, authorized executive director Mike Marshall in May to review possible undisclosed lobbying by Heritage Action. Mother Jones had recently published video of the group’s leader bragging to donors about working “quickly” and “quietly” to help write Iowa’s new election law.

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Iowa board approves formal probe of Heritage Action lobbying

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted on May 26 to authorize a formal staff investigation of possible undisclosed lobbying of Governor Kim Reynolds’ office by the conservative group Heritage Action for America.

The board’s executive director and legal counsel Mike Marshall had been informally investigating the matter after Mother Jones published video of Heritage Action’s executive director bragging about helping to write voter suppression laws in Iowa and other states. Jessica Anderson told donors at a private meeting in April that her group had “worked quietly” with Iowa lawmakers to help draft and support a new election bill, getting it passed with “little fanfare.” But the Washington, DC based organization, which is affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, hadn’t registered a position on the bill or filed reports required of those who lobby state government.

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