Weekly News Roundup: Dem Caucus Fallout, Chelgren’s Pander, Bakken Pipeline Decision Nears

Controversy Persists over Results of Democratic Caucuses: On Thursday, the Des Moines Register, in a strongly worded editorial titled “Something smells in the Democratic Party,” panned the caucuses as a “debacle” because of overcrowded precinct sites, inadequately trained volunteers, and reports of counting inconsistencies. The paper called for greater transparency and an audit of the historically close outcome. AP reporter Ryan Foley — one of the state’s best — took a closer look at some of the problems that arose Monday. Such articles will no doubt fan the flames of caucus conspiracy theories that hack bloggers and many Bernie Sanders supporters continue to promulgate. Bleeding Heartland blogger and Clinton supporter Laura Belin thinks Andy McGuire, who chairs the state party, and other Clinton-backing Democrats are partly to blame for that by refusing to take a closer look at the results. (Belin also criticized the caucuses for their lack of inclusion, which the Informer also looked at this week, and distorted delegate math.) The Sanders campaign may still contest this year’s results.

Ted Cruz’s Ugly Victory: Things aren’t any prettier among Republicans. After an uncharacteristically humble caucus concession speech in West Des Moines, Donald Trump — confronted with the reality that he himself was now that which he so delights in calling others, a loser — soon got back to his old ways, taking to Twitter to accuse the Cruz campaign of voter fraud. Trump’s evidence: The “VOTER VIOLATION” mailer with bogus voter turnout letter grades that was criticized by Secretary of State Paul Pate but defended by Pate’s predecessor-turned-Cruz Iowa chairman, Matt Schultz; and the campaign’s misleading implication that Ben Carson had announced he would drop out of the race after Iowa, which was parroted by Cruz’s national co-chairman, Steve King:

The Cruz campaign defended its statements, pointing to a CNN report that Carson would take a break from the campaign trail until Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. As the caucuses were set to begin, Carson also told a reporter he was heading home to Florida for “fresh clothes”:

State Senator Demands Rose Bowl Apology from Stanford: In an apparent pander to voters in the congressional district he’s running for a U.S. House seat in, state Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) introduced legislation this week (SF 2081) that would ban “certain future collaboration and cooperation” between Stanford and Iowa’s three Regent universities until the California school apologized for its marching band’s performance that mocked Iowa farmers during halftime of its Rose Bowl blowout of the Hawkeyes. In turn, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat, mocked Chelgren when asked if the proposal would be seriously considered: “Is that a serious question? … I think it would probably be good if senators from southern Iowa had a sense of humor. We probably need a few more of those.” Chelgren, who is running for Democrat Dave Loebsack’s seat in Congress, is the same politician who recently proposed executing undocumented immigrants deported for felonies who are caught re-entering the country.

Bakken pipeline decision may come next week: The Iowa Utilities Board will soon hold a series of four livestreamed public meetings to deliberate on Dakota Access LLC’s petition for a hazardous pipeline permit that, with the help of eminent domain seizures and subsequent regulatory approvals, would allow it to bury a crude oil pipeline diagonally across 18 Iowa counties. The meetings are scheduled Monday through Thursday from 1-4 p.m. in the IUB hearing room, located at 1375 E. Court Ave. in Des Moines. The Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition and progressive advocacy group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which plan to attend, are warning other pipeline opponents that the IUB has said it could arrive at a decision during the meetings. Regulators in the three other states the pipeline would cross from the Bakken and Three Forks shales in North Dakota, then through South Dakota and Iowa en route to a connecting hub in Illinois, have already approved the project. (To see how things have gotten to this point, check out the Informer‘s timeline of events in the Bakken pipeline saga.)

Gavin Aronsen
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.