Highlights: How Iowa's Pete Brownell helped NRA become Russian asset

Pete Brownell, the CEO of the Grinnell-based firearms retailer Brownells, was a key target in a scheme by foreign agents who used the National Rifle Association “to gain access to American conservative organizations on behalf of the Russian Federation,” an eighteen-month investigation revealed. The report by Democratic staff on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee determined that while representing the NRA, Brownell met with sanctioned individuals in Russia in December 2015. That trip helped demonstrate to the Kremlin that Russian government official Alexander Torshin had strong American connections.

In addition, investigators found evidence Brownell went to Moscow “primarily or solely for the purpose of advancing personal business interests, rather than advancing the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.” Maria Butina (who worked closely with Torshin and was later charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation) set up meetings for Brownell with Russian arms manufacturers and retailers and traveled with the Iowan for three days before the rest of the NRA group arrived.

By using the so-called social welfare organization’s resources in this way, the NRA and Brownell may have violated portions of the federal tax code relating to private inurement and excess benefit transactions.

Bleeding Heartland’s efforts to reach Brownell for comment on September 27 were unsuccessful. The media contact for the Brownells company did not return phone calls.

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Former police officer comments on "Stand Your Ground" law

Gun owner and retired police officer David Grussing comments on House File 517, which cleared the Iowa House last week and the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I’m writing in response to the efforts by the Republicans in both chambers of the Iowa legislature to relax Iowa’s already limited common sense gun safety measures. Their efforts, if enacted, will result in new “Stand Your Ground” legislation and making the permit process for carrying a weapon virtually worthless.

I can almost see the Republican heads shaking and thinking, “Here’s another gun hating Democrat who wants to take our guns away and repeal the 2nd Amendment.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, I am a Democrat, but I own several handguns, a couple of rifles, and a shotgun. In addition, I served as a police officer for about 25 years, with about 17 of those years as a detective who carried a concealed weapon as part of my daily routine.

I also was a candidate for the District 7 seat in the Iowa House last year. During that campaign, I knocked on about 4,500 doors throughout the district and conducted dozens of public appearances, including about ten candidate forums with my opponent, State Representative Tedd Gassman. Not once, during any candidate forum, public appearance, or conversation on a door step, did anyone tell me that they thought Iowa’s gun laws were too strict and needed to be relaxed. It’s worth mentioning that District 7, which is comprised of Emmet, Winnebago, and parts of Kossuth counties, is exactly the kind of rural, conservative District that Democrats have had difficulty connecting with.

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The 16 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2016

For the first time last year, I put some thought into what posts had consumed the greatest amount of my energy. I realized that some of those deep dives were among my most satisfying writing projects. That new awareness informed my editorial choices in good and bad ways. Unfortunately, some election-related stories I would have covered in previous cycles didn’t get written in 2016, because I was immersed in other topics. On the plus side, those rabbit holes led to work I’m proud to have published.

Assembling this post was more challenging than last year’s version. Several pieces that would have been among my most labor-intensive in another year didn’t make the cut. A couple of posts that might have made the top ten were not ready to go before the holidays. Maybe they will end up in a future collection of seventeen posts I worked hardest on in 2017.

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Iowa Senate district 32 preview: Brian Schoenjahn vs. Craig Johnson

To win control of the Iowa Senate, where Democrats have held a 26 to 24 majority for the last six years, Republicans will need to beat at least two Democratic incumbents. One of their top targets is Senator Brian Schoenjahn, who is seeking a fourth term in Senate district 32.

Follow me after the jump for a map and details on the political makeup of this northeast Iowa district, along with background on Schoenjahn and his challenger Craig Johnson, the key issues for each candidate, and a look at Johnson’s first television commercial.

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NRA's Iowa affiliate targeting four Senate Democrats

The Iowa Firearms Coalition, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, has formed a political action committee that is targeting four Democratic-held Iowa Senate districts in its effort to strip power from “anti-gun Senate majority leaders.” The strategy is logical, because in recent years several high-profile gun bills died in the upper chamber after clearing the Republican-controlled Iowa House.

However, I was surprised to see a couple of Senate races missing from the Iowa Firearms Coalition PAC’s list.

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How Grassley and Ernst voted and explained their stance on failed gun control measures

In a classic example of the kabuki theater that passes for legislating these days, U.S. senators rejected four gun control measures today. Moved to act by the June 11 massacre at a gay club in Orlando, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut led a talking filibuster for more than fourteen hours last week to force a vote on a Democratic proposal to ban gun sales to people on terrorist watch list. He also introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would expand background checks for firearms purchases, eliminating the gun show loophole. Similar proposals failed to pass the Senate last December, shortly after the mass shooting in San Bernadino.

With the blessing of the National Rifle Association, Republicans drafted their own amendments this week, ostensibly to accomplish the same goals as the Democratic legislation.

Follow me after the jump for details on the four proposals and today’s votes, as well as comments from Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst, Grassley’s challenger Patty Judge, and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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