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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

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By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

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PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Legislature powerless to initiate probe of disclosure violations without specific, formal complaints

By Jason Hancock | 08.05.09 | 4:00 pm

Despite giving itself authority over disclosure reports for legislative parties paid for by lobbyists, neither the House nor the Senate ethics committees have the power to initiate investigations into violations.

In order to open a legislative investigation, a third party must file a formal ethics complaint.

This process has come under scrutiny of late after the Iowa Pharmacy Association failed to file a disclosure report for a function it held in February attended by 20 lawmakers and Gov. Chet Culver until after reporters began questions about the party – five months late.

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Iowa law dictates that lobbyists file disclosure reports within five business days following the date of receptions they host during a legislative session where lawmakers are invited.

In response to the news that legislators are unable to initiate an investigation into violations of campaign law, Des Moines activist organization Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement announced Wednesday that they have filed a formal complaint against the Iowa Pharmacy Association with the chief clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate.

“We shouldn’t have to jump through this many hoops to get people to follow the law,” said Adam Mason, an organizer with Iowa CCI. “But legislators aren’t able to do it.”

Iowa CCI’s initial research has uncovered 26 additional late-filing disclosure violations by lobbyist groups during the 2009 legislative session. This amount represents nearly one-third of the 90 reports that were filed in 2009. Of those late reports, 11 were filed more than two months late, Mason said.

“We are also requesting this past sessions social calendar, so we can assess how many lobbyists and associations have not filed,” Mason said. “I’m sure we are going to find many more groups that haven’t filed, and we will look into filing complaints against those groups as well.”

Before 2005, forms were filed with the nonpartisan Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (IECDB). The board’s staff would also check the social calendar and call groups to make sure reports were filed on time.

The law was changed in 2005, giving authority to legislative ethics committees. At that time, the IECDB discontinued the practice of ensuring the prompt filing of reports, since it lost enforcement jurisdiction.

Since the law changed, the number of reports filed has gone down, from 101 in 206 to 90 this year.

The other difference, according to the state’s campaign law, is the IECDB can investigate an issue on its own motion, according to Charlie Smithson, the board’s executive director. The legislative ethics committees do not have that power.

Section 68B.31 of Iowa’s campaign law lays out the powers, responsibilities and format of the legislative ethics committees. It can prepare rules relating to lobbyists and lobbying activities, issue non-binding advisory opinions interpreting the intent of constitutional and statutory provisions, recommend legislation and hear complaints against legislators or lobbyists.

That means a third party would have to discover a violation to campaign law and file a complaint for a group to suffer any penalty for its indiscretion.

Mason called for the legislature to give oversight authority back to the IECDB, who he said did an admirable job of policing these events over the years.

“Right now its like the fox guarding the hen house,” he said. “It’s just crazy.”

In addition to returning authority to the IECDB, Mason’s group is calling for campaign contribution limits, public financing of elections and for tougher enforcement when a law is broken.

“We’re allowing lobbyists to wine and dine our lawmakers and basically buy influence,” Mason said.

Follow Jason Hancock on Twitter


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