Last week the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board flatly rejected the the Iowa Democratic Party’s (IDP) June 9th ethics complaint against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz for his alleged ‘use of public resources to campaign against Jon Huntsman.” Though the mainstream media was all too eager to report the allegations without any fact-checking of their own, they have been strangely silent now that the charges have been summarily dismissed.
Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, announced in early June that he would 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 June 6th:
…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.”
But as The Iowa Republican (TIR) alone reported, Schultz’s letter clearly did not violate Iowa Code Section 68A.505, which reads 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.”
The IDP’s complaint was entirely meritless, and the Ethics Board promptly dismissed the complaint at their next board meeting on July 19th. Pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA), TIR obtained a copy of the Ethics Board’s letter to Sue Dvorsky, the Chair of the IDP, which reads, in pertinent part:
The Board determined Secretary Schultz’s press release did not violate Iowa Code section 68A.505 and dismissed your complaint…
While Schultz is obviously critical of Jon Huntsman in his press release, he does not use “explicit words that unambiguously indicate the [press release] is recommending or supporting a particular outcome in the election.” He neither explicitly advocates against voting for Huntsman nor does he advocate for, much less mention, any of Huntsman’s likely opponents in the Iowa caucuses.
Moreover, Huntsman does not fall within the definition of “candidate.”…In other words, the term “candidates” as used in Chapter 68A does not include an individual running for federal office.
Though the obvious outcome, it appears that this news must have come as a surprise to the Iowa Democratic Party, who had eagerly written the Ethics Board on July 19th in hopes of learning that at their meeting the Board had decided to pursue the Schultz ethics complaint. Perhaps they need to hire a new attorney.
But the point of the ethics complaint was not to be legally valid, but rather to score political points against a rising star in the Iowa Republican Party. And as TIR predicted, the mainstream media let them get away with it by not reporting on “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” without fear of being called out by the media.
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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