ON THE ISSUES 2014: Ethics reform

A look at what the Iowa Legislature will face this session

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Published: January 3 2014 | 10:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:35 am in
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ON THE TABLE THIS SESSION

  • In 2013, a case regarding Milo Republican Sen. Kent Sorenson's involvement in first the Michele Bachmann campaign and then Ron Paul’s raised questions about legislators’ participation in Iowa caucus presidential campaigns. Sorenson resigned his seat in wake of the ethics probe.
  • Senate ethics rules forbid senators from receiving money “directly or indirectly” from a political action committee or a presidential campaign.
  • The House prohibits employment by campaigns “in this state,” meaning its members can’t work on state-level campaigns. Sen. Wally Horn believes “our rule in the Senate is OK, so I think the House needs to duplicate it … so there is no question on what lawmakers can and can’t do.”

TIMELINE

  • Senators from both parties say they are working on changes to Senate rules to make it “abundantly clear” senators cannot accept payment for working on presidential campaigns.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, expects action early in the session because 2016 candidates already are visiting Iowa. He and Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, have been discussing wording during the interim.

PROSPECTS FOR PROGRESS

  • Adopting the Senate rule is not a priority for the House, which requires members to report their employers, according to House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. “We’re interested in disclosure,” he said. House members of both parties have worked for presidential campaigns without ethics problems, he added.

CHALLENGES/ROADBLOCKS

  • Like Paulsen, House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, believes transparency is more important than conforming to the Senate rule. A lawmaker can be rewarded by a presidential campaign in ways other than a paycheck, she said, noting that more than one Iowa lawmaker has received a federal appointment after volunteering on a campaign.

Curated by James Q. Lynch, Michael Chevy Castranova, Jim Riley/The Gazette

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