Big changes, worrying signs at Des Moines Register

High-profile departures from the Des Moines Register newsroom have happened too often over the last decade. A series of layoffs and buyouts left readers less informed about important topics. For instance, ever since the Register let its last Washington-based correspondent go, readers rarely hear about what our state’s members of Congress are doing, unless the story originated from a press release or comments during a conference call with journalists.

The recent turnover at Iowa’s most important agenda-setting news organization is worrying for heavy consumers of political coverage.

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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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Iowa governor trying to have it both ways on Affordable Care Act

Governor Kim Reynolds continues to take credit for a major benefit of the Affordable Care Act, even as she calls on Congress to repeal and replace the 2010 health care reform law. During today’s Condition of the State address, the governor boasted that compared to a few years ago, “150,000 more Iowans have mental health coverage today and have access to more local and modern service.”

She didn’t mention that those Iowans gained health insurance only because the Affordable Care Act included funding to expand Medicaid.

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The 17 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2017

Since I started writing for this website a decade ago, I’ve never worked harder than I did in 2017. This momentous year in Iowa politics provided an overwhelming amount of source material: new laws affecting hundreds of thousands of people, our first new governor since 2011, and a record number of Democrats seeking federal or statewide offices.

In addition, my focus has shifted toward more topics that require time-consuming research or scrutiny of public records. As I looked over the roughly 420 Bleeding Heartland posts I wrote this year, I realized that dozens of pieces were as labor-intensive as some of those I worked hardest on in 2015 or 2016.

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