On Thursday, the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) filed an ethics complaint against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz for “his use of public resources to campaign against Jon Huntsman.” In doing so, however, they may well have perjured themselves.
Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, recently announced that he will not compete in the Iowa caucuses. According to the Des Moines Register:
Iowa’s lead-off caucuses are out for him, Huntsman said, because of his opposition to subsidies for corn-based ethanol. Why waste time trying to court Iowa voters who see that support as a way of life and a deal-breaker, he said. “I’m not competing in Iowa for a reason,” he said.
This prompted Secretary of State Schultz to issue the following statement on Monday:
…In my opinion, this excuse seems to have as much credibility as “the dog ate my homework.”
It is apparent that Mr. Huntsman is in need of a lesson in Iowa politics. Iowa is a bellwether state. We care about our families, our faith and our freedom. We are not single-issue voters. We just want to know how presidential candidates are going to make our country better. Hopefully Mr. Huntsman will change his mind and come to Iowa and explain how he plans on fixing the problems facing our country.
Iowans look forward to the opportunity to hear Mr. Huntsman’s vision for America. We will listen to him explain his support for Cap and Trade. We will listen to him explain why he took more than one billion dollars in federal stimulus money. We will listen to him explain why he wants to replace his former boss, Barack Obama. We will listen to him explain why he is distancing himself from his Mormon faith. Mr. Huntsman should know that Iowans elected me as their Secretary of State and my Mormon faith was never an issue.
Is Jon Huntsman not coming to Iowa because he opposes ethanol subsidies or because he is afraid to explain his positions on other issues? Iowa Congressman Steve King opposes ethanol subsidies and he continues to get reelected with large margins of victory. If Mr. Huntsman refuses to compete in a bellwether state like Iowa, he is not ready for the big dance. After all, our last two presidents won the Iowa Caucus before they went to the White House.
This was apparently a line too far for the Iowa Democratic Party. According to Sam Roecker, spokesman for the IDP, “Secretary Schultz has gone beyond just talking about the caucuses, he used an official press release to single out and attack a candidate in the caucus process.” “By attacking specific policy positions held by Huntsman,” the ethic’s complaint reads, “the Iowa Democratic Party believes this is in violation of section 68A.505 of the Iowa Code.”
Iowa Code Section 68A.505 reads, in pertinent part, that the “state and the governing body of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state shall not expend or permit the expenditure of public moneys for political purposes, including expressly advocating the passage or defeat of a ballot issue.”
What, then, is a “political purpose”? Iowa Code Section 68A.102(19) defines it to mean “the express advocacy of a candidate or ballot issue.” The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board further defines the term to mean “to expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate or to expressly advocate the passage or defeat of a ballot issue.”
Okay, so what does “express advocacy” mean? The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board recently stated that:
These definitions of “express advocacy” are based on the court case Iowa Right to Life Committee v. Williams, 187 F.3rd 963 (8th Cir. 1999) that defined “express advocacy” as the use of words or symbols such as “vote for,” “elect,” “defeat,” or “support” that exhorted the particular outcome of an election of a clearly identified candidate or ballot issue.
A simple review of Schultz’s letter reveals that nowhere in it does he “expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat” of Jon Huntsman. How is it, then, that the Iowa Democratic Party could state with such certainty in their complaint that the letter “is in direct violation of Iowa Code Section 68A.505”?
They can’t; they’re simply lying to score political points and get some free media attention. Problem is, Sue Dvorsky, Chair of the IDP, certified “under penalty of perjury pursuant to the laws of the state of Iowa that [the complaint is] true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
It would seem, therefore, that the IDP may well have perjured themselves or, at the very least, opened themselves up to a libel suit. In all likelihood, however, neither of these things will be prosecuted, nor will the mainstream media report on the groundless basis of the IDP’s claims or the eventual dismissal of the complaint by the ethics board for being legally insufficient. And doubtless the IDP will make sure to include the “ethics charges” in campaign ads against Schultz when he runs for reelection in 2014.
In the end, the IDP will have gotten away with a smear campaign, aided and abetted as always by their stenographers in the mainstream media.
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