Why did Kim Reynolds dodge questions about her Iowa Supreme Court choice?

Governor Kim Reynolds will hold less frequent press conferences for the duration of this year’s campaign, her staff acknowledged this week after persistent questioning by political reporter Barbara Rodriguez. The governor’s spokesperson downplayed the significance of abandoning the weekly presser, an Iowa tradition Governor Bob Ray established and Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack maintained. All public events on Reynolds’ schedule would provide opportunities for journalists to ask questions, Rodriguez was told on July 31.

That promise didn’t hold up well. The very next day, Reynolds read carefully from written remarks when announcing District Court Judge Susan Christensen as her choice for the Iowa Supreme Court. Christensen briefly thanked her family, friends, and colleagues, and promised to support the constitution. End scene, with no question time for the assembled media. The governor’s staff also ignored my written inquiry related to the Supreme Court appointment.

It’s not hard to guess why Reynolds would block journalists from asking her or Christensen about the process for selecting the first new justice to join Iowa’s high court in seven and a half years.

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Cartoon: The fine print

Robert Niederklopfer, a Democratic activist in Des Moines, was inspired to draw this commentary after President Donald Trump condemned the massacre of reporters and editors at the The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, saying, “journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs.” Trump has repeatedly called the media “the enemy of the people” and has sometimes incited supporters at his rallies to bash journalists or news organizations. -promoted by desmoinesdem

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3 hopes for Des Moines Register chief politics reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel

The Des Moines Register made it official this week: Brianne Pfannenstiel will move up to the chief politics reporter job after three years covering the statehouse. She is best-known for writing about alleged sexual misconduct by State Senator Nate Boulton; that article quickly ended his campaign for governor. It was a tricky story to report, and Pfannenstiel handled the material well. Another huge scoop was her June 2017 investigative report on delayed state tax refunds.

Pfannenstiel impressed me during her first year at the Register, when she had the news sense to write multiple pieces about the most under-covered major Iowa politics story of 2015. Some experienced statehouse reporters failed to recognize the significance of an unprecedented move to enact a new sales tax break without legislative approval. That policy change turned out to be far more costly than officials had projected, contributing to state revenue shortfalls in subsequent years.

I’m looking forward to watching Pfannenstiel apply her detail-oriented approach to her new beat. As she turns her attention to campaigns and elections, I hope she will:

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Don’t hide government officials from the public

Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Randy Evans reflects on the flawed draft advisory opinion the Iowa Public Information Board’s staff proposed in response to my inquiry. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I sometimes think government officials overlook the important role the public plays in our system of government.

That was my takeaway last week from the monthly meeting of the Iowa Public Information Board.

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When someone tried to plant a false story in the Des Moines Register

A year ago today, Des Moines Register public affairs reporter William Petroski reached out to the Iowa Attorney General’s office, seeking to confirm a tip from a “really good source.”

The story never made it into the paper, because it didn’t check out. Odds are the misinformation came from someone close to then Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

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