A sidebar to the cover story in our latest print edition about Grinnell gun CEO and former NRA Pete Brownell’s connection to the FBI’s investigation into the gun rights organization’s ties to Russians suspected of interfering in US politics and the 2016 presidential election. (Subscribe here.)
A Navy veteran, former radio dispatcher for the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office, and retired police detective from Marengo, Olson, 57, is also a past president of the Iowa Peace Officers Association and in 2003 was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the US marshal for the Northern District of Iowa for a four-year term.
Olson is a gun collector and major Republican donor. He cut a $2,500 check to Mitt Romney in 2012 and gave $2,700 to Donald Trump in 2016. In 2015 and 2016, he gave Sen. Chuck Grassley $5,400, and in 2012 and 2016 made two contributions to Congressman Steve King’s campaigns totaling $5,200.
A tough-on-crime former state trooper from Greenfield, Baudler, 79, served for 10 terms as a Republican in the Iowa House before retiring at the end of the 2018 session (read our article on his retirement here). Despite his longtime advocacy for the Second Amendment, he was commonly in the crosshairs of Iowa Gun Owners, known more for its tough talk and rambling emails than grassroots strategizing, which bills itself as the state’s “largest and only no-compromise guns rights organization.” In 2012, the group’s director, Aaron Dorr, accused Baudler of having “gutted, stripped, and weakened” gun bills for the past four years in his role as chairman of the House Public Safety Committee. Dorr was especially heated about Baudler’s “blockade” of a constitutional carry bill, which would have allowed Iowans to carry handguns without a permit. (Republicans abandoned a similar bill this February after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.)
Last year, Baudler sought payback, filing an ethics complaint against Dorr for failing to register as a Statehouse lobbyist. The complaint was dismissed because of what the House Ethics Committee called a “loophole” that exempted the heads of nonprofits from having to register if they were unpaid or not officially designated by their group as a lobbyist. Dorr then shot out an email accusing Baudler of attacking him because he and other “anti-gun legislators” were “still FURIOUS at Iowa Gun Owners’ members and supporters for forcing them to deliver on their promises.”