Weekly News Roundup: Former Cyclones Star Monte Morris Linked to FBI Probe of College Basketball Violations

Also: Ames police responded to a report of a shooting threat at a local theater, the state Senate advanced tax cut and anti-pipeline protest bills, and Congressman Rod Blum was caught violating House ethics rules

Max Goldberg/Wikimedia Commons

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

Yahoo Sports reported Friday on documents and bank records it reviewed stemming from a multi-year federal investigation into what the news outlet described as “an underground recruiting operation that could create NCAA rules issues — both current and retroactive — for at least 20 Division I basketball programs and more than 25 players.” Former Iowa State Cyclones point guard Monte Morris is among the players listed in the documents. On an unspecified date, Morris met for a meal with Christian Dawkins, a former associate of former NBA agent Andy Miller and his ASM Sports recruiting agency. Miller and Dawkins are central figures in the FBI’s expansive probe into potential violations of NCAA rules against paying student athletes. Tonya Morris, Monte’s mother, quickly defended her son, telling local sports reporters that he didn’t violate any NCAA rules. (It was unclear who paid for the meal Morris had with Dawkins.)

Monte Morris is currently a rookie in the NBA on the Denver Nuggets.

Ames Police Responded to Alleged Theater Shooting Threat Last Week

Last Tuesday around 9:30 p.m., Ames police received a call about suspicious activity at the Cinemark Movies 12 theater on Buckeye Avenue. “Apparently, two younger males were involved with an altercation with two other males at the theater,” Geoff Huff, the police department’s current public information officer, told the Informer. “They were asked to leave for causing a scene and they did. They were heard to say something like they would ‘come back to shoot the place up.’” Police arrived to secure the area, including the nearby Jethro’s BBQ Steak n’ Chop restaurant, but did not find the perps who “were described by witnesses as either black or Hispanic males, late teens to early 20s,” according to Huff. “No one observed any weapons,” Huff added, and police cleared out about half an hour after receiving the call.

State Senate Republicans Quickly Advance $1 Billion Tax Cut Bill

On Thursday, the Republican-led Ways and Means Committee of the Iowa Senate approved a bill that was introduced just the previous day and would cut annual state taxes by $1 billion. Democrats criticized the proposal, arguing that the cuts would lead to huge spending reductions to government programs such as education and healthcare that have already been hit hard by cuts to the state’s $7.2 million budget. According to state Sen. Randy Feenstra, a Hull Republican who is managing the bill, the legislation won’t be debated on the Senate floor until a fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency is conducted. The Iowa House is currently looking at a separate bill based on a tax plan from Gov. Kim Reynolds that would slash taxes by $1.7 billion from the 2019 to 2023 fiscal years.

Anti-Pipeline Protest Bill Passed by Iowa Senate

A bill introduced by the Iowa Departmentment of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to establish criminal penalties specifically for the sabotage of “critical infrastructure” passed the Iowa Senate last Wednesday by a 33-16 vote. The legislation was proposed as a response to the millions of dollars of damage caused to equipment used during the construction of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline. Although Iowa law already has penalties in place for arson and property destruction, the new proposal would harshen penalties for damaging infrastructure including but not limited to pipelines by making the act a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

State Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat who tried but failed to soften the penalties, slammed the bill as having “extraordinary overbreadth” that could result in peaceful protesters being hit with the felony charge if they were in the wrong place at the wrong time (similar things have happened many times before). “We want to make sure that we are applying appropriate criminal penalties for the consequences of the conduct,” Hogg said, according to the Des Moines Register. “Don’t turn every protester into a Class B felon. This is an extraordinarily chilling bill to people’s freedom.”

Congressman Rod Blum Failed to Disclose Ownership Role in Shady “Reputation Management” Company

There’s a reason why Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley has earned the nickname “Scoops”: In one of two stories he broke last week, Foley revealed that Iowa Congressman Rod Blum violated House ethics rules by failing to disclose his ownership role in a murky Dubuque “reputation management” and search engine optimization company called Tin Moon in 2016. The company has advertised services including helping businesses improve internet search engine results by burying negative reports about Food and Drug Administration violations. Blum, a Republican, later claimed that the company hadn’t done business in 2016, although its records suggest otherwise. (Bleeding Heartland reporter Laura Belin followed up on Foley’s scoop by pointing out that Tin Moon’s website copied testimonials word-for-word from another company.) The congressman dismissed his failure to disclose information about the company as a simple oversight and also as “yet another desperate, Democrat diversion originated from the career politicians in Washington DC doing everything they can to make sure Nancy Pelosi is speaker again.”

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.