Weekly News Roundup: Steve King’s Family Staffers, ISU Presidential Search Nears Its End

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The Informer’s weekly news roundup, presented in partnership with KHOI community radio.

Report: Steve King employed family members as campaign staffers for over a decade

In an unusual but legal arrangement, Congressman Steve King has employed his son Jeff and daughter-in-law Lindsay as campaign staffers, even in non-election years, the Des Moines Register reported Tuesday. Their employment dates back at least as far as 2004, Federal Election Commission records show, and total more than $800,000, paid for through campaign donations. “There’s no possible way that I could hire somebody off the street that could do what those two do, let alone have the family loyalty that goes along with it,” King told the Register. He has served in Congress since 2002.

Iowa Senate GOP sexual harassment lawsuit settled

On Monday, the State Appeals Board approved a controversial lawsuit settlement against the Iowa Senate GOP that will cost Iowa taxpayers $1.75 million. The lawsuit was filed by Kirsten Anderson, a former Republican communications director, who alleged there was a “boys’ club” culture of widespread sexual harassment among the Republican Senate caucus at the Statehouse. Anderson was initially awarded $2.2 million in damages in July before the amount was reduced. Gov. Kim Reynolds called demands for Bill Dix to step down from his role as the state Senate’s majority leader in response to the scandal “ridiculous” and an attempt to turn it into a “political issue.”

More evidence emerges of Branstad’s Medicaid privatization failure

Evidence continues to mount that former Gov. Terry Branstad’s controversial decision to turn management of the state’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program to three for-profit corporations is harming at-risk patients who depend on it for healthcare. In March, state quarterly reports showed a spike in complaints from patients who lost or began receiving reduced coverage. And late last month, the Register reported that central Iowa nursing homes have started refusing service to ventilator patients, citing insufficient and late payments from Medicaid providers.

Trump personally attempted to undermine Obamacare revisions in Iowa

The Washington Post reported Thursday that President Trump in August attempted to sabotage efforts by Iowa officials to modify how the state administers its Affordable Care Act program after reading an article about the efforts in the Wall Street Journal. State insurance commissioner Doug Ommen wants to implement a “stopgap measure” to make the marketplace more competitive in an effort to lower costs by replacing subsidies with tax credits — a conservative proposal opposed by many Democrats. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has made the stopgap measure a top priority, even meeting with federal officials about it in July. An application for a waiver to approve the changes is still pending.

Finalists for next Iowa State University president to be revealed next week

Next Monday through Thursday, Iowa State University will hold a series of four public forums, each introducing one of the finalists to become the next president of the university. Names of the finalists, along with their curriculum vitae, will be posted on ISU’s website on the day before they appear on campus. The Iowa Board of Regents plans to select a new president at a meeting in Ames Oct. 23. Currently, former University of Northern Iowa president Benjamin Allen is serving as ISU’s interim president. He replaced Steven Leath, who left for Auburn University last fall amid a scandal over his misuse of university-owned airplanes. Leath announced Friday that his former chief of staff Miles Lackey, who followed him to ISU from the University of Northern Iowa, will join him in the same role at Auburn in January.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.