Paul Pate Decries “Propaganda” in Softball TV Interview with Former Intern

The secretary of state, who has claimed that Iowa liberals want child molesters to vote from prison and stoked George Soros conspiracy theories, said he thinks Iowans are smart enough to avoid false information on social media


Wednesday on Twitter, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate teased an interview with We Are Iowa Local 5 News with “my former intern Mario Rossi” about “#electionintegrity,” a label that echoes the name of Donald Trump’s infamous Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and one that Pate used regularly in his phony but successful effort last year to enact a voter ID law in Iowa. “We must not let propaganda divide us & erode our confidence in #elections,” Pate tweeted, referring to news that Russians attempted to interfere with the state’s elections.

“Thanks to @IowaSOS for letting a former intern (me!) conduct an interview on what his office has done to make sure Iowa elections are safe, and how voters can tune out the distractions and misinformation that they may encounter,” the former intern, Mario Rossi, tweeted, linking to an article with a clip of the interview on the news station’s website.

The article introduced the clip by asking, “Did Russians have any effect on Iowa elections? Local 5 wanted to find out the answer from the Iowa Secretary of State.” The question was a reaction to news last week that Robert Mueller issued an indictment as part of his investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election alleging in part that Russian operatives paid to advertise a Facebook post falsely claiming that “Hillary Clinton has already committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa Caucus.” (Previously, in response to an Associated Press report that federal officials had notified states including Iowa about possible state election hacking by Russians, Pate claimed that Iowa’s election system had not been compromised.)

“It’s propaganda and that’s not new,” Pate told We Are News 5, responding to the allegation about the Iowa caucuses in the Mueller indictment. “The Russians and other bad actors have used propaganda for some time to try and make us lose confidence in our voting systems. I think Iowans are smarter than that.”

Added We Are News 5: “Secretary Pate said that it’s important to do your own research to verify if what you read on the Internet is true or not.”

That’s solid advice coming from Pate, who knows a thing or two about spreading false information about Iowa’s election system.

In a fundraising pitch last September, Pate claimed there was a “price I’m paying” for supposedly protecting the integrity of Iowa’s elections, warning, “You don’t want some felon who is ineligible to vote or a radical zealot who thinks he can get away with voting multiple times to cancel out your vote.” In the pitch, Pate also boasted of his success at getting a voter ID law — a thinly veiled effort to suppress votes — in Iowa, “making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. As Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, I made it happen. And the instant I did, you could hear the [sic] Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and George Soros howl.”

In reality, felons who’ve completed their sentences are only ineligible to vote in Iowa because of former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who rescinded an executive order after returning to the governor’s mansion in 2011, resulting in the permanent disenfrachisement of Iowa felons unless they receive direct permission from the governor after a burdensome appeal process. What’s more, Pate’s predecessor, fellow Republican Matt Schultz, inadvertently showed that voter fraud is virtually nonexistent in Iowa by misusing over half a million dollars in federal funds — intended to be used to help improve access to voting — on a voter fraud dragnet and attempted voter roll purge. And Pate’s mention of George Soros was a clear nod to conservatives who have increasingly promoted unfounded conspiracy theories about the Hungarian philanthropist.

And speaking “about how Iowans can dispel myths and misinformation while trying to make a decision at the polls,” here’s something else voters can keep in mind as they make a decision whether to support Pate or his eventual Democratic opponent (either Deidre DeJear or Jim Mowrer): During a PR tour in 2016 preceding the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the state’s felon voting restrictions, Pate smeared advocates of voter rights in Iowa by falsely suggesting they had an ulterior motive to allow killers and child molesters to sway elections from their prison cells.

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.