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State board requests information from group that claimed involvement in Iowa elections bill
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State board requests information from group that claimed involvement in Iowa elections bill

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Iowa statehouse

The Iowa Capitol in Des Moines is shown in a July 2019 file photo.

DES MOINES — The state board that monitors lobbying of Iowa’s executive branch is asking for more information from a national organization that claimed involvement in the writing of a wide-ranging elections bill that recently was passed into law.

Mike Marshall, executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, said Monday that he has requested more information from Washington, D.C.-based Heritage Action after a leaked video showed the group’s director claiming the organization helped Iowa lawmakers draft legislation that, among myriad other things, significantly shortened the state’s early voting period and constrained other early voting programs.

The legislation, Senate File 413, was approved by Republican majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate, and passed into law by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Bobby Kaufmann

Kaufmann

Roby Smith

Smith

Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann and Iowa Sen. Roby Smith, the Republicans who oversaw the bill’s passage in the Legislature, have denied Heritage Action’s claims that the group was involved in the bill’s creation.

In a letter to Heritage Action, Marshall requested any information regarding any contact the group made with Reynolds’ office. Marshall also asked Reynolds’ office to check their records for any such contact.

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Marshall said if any materials show Heritage Action made contact with the governor’s office regarding the legislation, the board would at a minimum require Heritage to belatedly register as a lobbyist and file any required reports. The board also could pursue disciplinary action, which could result in fines up to $2,000 for each offense, Marshall said.

Because the board is not responsible for overseeing the Iowa Legislature, any inquiries there would fall to the Legislature’s ethics committees, which are chaired by majority Republicans.

Spokespeople for legislative leaders did not immediately respond to a question of whether Republicans plan to look into Heritage’s claims.

“Iowa is the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” Heritage Action executive director Jessica Anderson said in the video, as reported by The Associated Press. The video was first published by the progressive investigate news website Mother Jones. “We helped draft the bills. ... Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other, and we’re like, ‘it can’t be that easy.’”

Kaufmann and Smith disputed the claims, with Kaufmann saying Heritage “had nothing to do with” the elections bill. Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley suggested Anderson may have made the claim to boost fundraising.

Zach Wahls

Wahls

Iowa Sen. Zach Wahls, leader of the Senate Democrats from Coralville, called the state board's inquiry “good news,” and called on Smith to cooperate.

“If asked, Sen. Smith should turn over any records of contacts with anyone affiliated with Heritage Action, including emails, letters, messaging memos and phone records,” Wahls said in a statement. “Iowans deserve to know the facts about this case and whether any laws or rules have been broken.”

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