Weekly News Roundup: Former Iowa DOT Head Withdraws from Federal Nomination, Nussle Celebrates Roy Moore Loss

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Former Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino III. Photo via LinkedIn

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

Former Iowa DOT Head Withdraws from Consideration for US Highway Chief

Paul Trombino III, the former director of the Iowa Department of Transportation who in September was nominated by President Trump to lead the Federal Highway Administration, has removed his name from consideration for the appointment, citing family reasons. “After many conversations with my family, we have decided that it is best that I withdraw from the nomination process,” he wrote in an email to his employees Dec. 8, according to an Associated Press report days later. “Iowa is my home and I need to be here for what likely will be the last two years or less of my father’s life.” Trombino was appointed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to lead the Iowa DOT in 2011, and in 2015 and 2016 served as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. After Trump’s election, Trombino unexpectedly left his DOT position and became president of the Clive-based McClure Engineering Co.

Student Arrested in Racist Graffiti Case at Buena Vista University

A 19-year-old Buena Vista University student was arrested last week on an criminal mischief charge for allegedly writing racist messages and symbols on dorm room doors. The student, former BVU football player Ryan Mills, targeted two African American students and a Latino student, as well as two white students. His motivation appeared to have something to do with a recent controversy over the nationwide national anthem protests against racial injustice that began in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled in protest of police brutality. Alyssa Parker, a former football cheerleader who left the team after university officials prohibited kneeling during the national anthem, reported finding the N-word scrawled on her door. BVU is located in Storm Lake, a fairly diverse community in Congressman Steve King’s deep-red 4th Congressional District.

Meanwhile, Iowa was featured prominently in a recent New York Times article exploring how chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” has become a “racial jeer.” The article mentioned the two Forest City radio station employees who were fired after they were caught making offensive comments about the Latino-sounding names of high school basketball players from rival Eagle Grove.

Former Iowa GOP Congressman Jim Nussle Cheers Roy Moore’s Defeat in Alabama

On the morning after the Alabama special election to decide who would fill the Senate seat of Jeff Sessions, former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle, a Republican, took to Twitter to celebrate the defeat of the controversial right-wing theocrat Roy Moore. “Strange feeling for a Republican lifer however, BEST I’ve EVER felt after a post Democratic victory night in my lifetime,” he wrote. “#ThankYouAlabama for (momentarily)saving GOP from themselves!”

Moore’s Democratic opponent, attorney Doug Jones, was able to win in the deeply conservative state after a bombshell Washington Post report revealing that Moore pursued numerous relationships with teenagers while in his 30s and once allegedly molested a 14-year-old girl in his home.

Nussle served in the US House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007. He left office to run for governor in 2006 against eventual Democratic victor Chet Culver. Afterward, Nussle was picked by President Bush to direct the Office of Management and Budget, where he served until 2009. Nussle is currently the president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, which lobbies for public policies that support credit unions.

Former State Senator Kent Sorenson Loses Appeal to Shorten Prison Sentence

Disgraced ex-state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a Republican from Milo, lost an appeal last week to have his 15-month prison sentence reduced (read the court’s ruling here). Sorenson was sentenced in January after being found guilty of accepting a $73,000 bribe from three staffers for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2012 in exchange for his agreement to leave the Michelle Bachmann campaign and endorse Paul ahead of the Iowa caucuses. The former lawmaker had pleaded guilty to violating federal election law and making false statements during an Iowa Senate ethics investigation but appealed his sentence soon after the verdict. Robert Pratt, the judge who sentenced Sorenson, called his actions the “definition of political corruption.”

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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.