Just about everyone up at the Statehouse is ready for the session to be over for the year. The Legislature passed the 100-day mark last Tuesday, the day per diems end for lawmakers and the clerks head out. And two people with a particular vested interest in its end date are Nate Boulton and Cathy Glasson.
That’s because state campaign finance rules bar donations from PACs and lobbyists to state campaigns until 30 days after the legislative session ends. And both Boulton and Glasson have benefited significantly from major union PACs supplying their campaigns with funds. The vast majority of Glasson’s fundraising came from various national and local SEIU PACs. And Boulton has the endorsement of nearly every Iowa labor union, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars from AFSCME and the Laborers alone last year.
Both AFSCME and SEIU contributed large sums to Boulton and Glasson, respectively, just before the legislative session began.
Every day the legislative session drags on is one less day those fundraising faucets can reopen for candidates. That’s particularly problematic when another Democrat in the race, Fred Hubbell, has relied almost solely on individual donors, which have no limitations at this point.
The Statehouse’s adjournment date depends on when Republican leaders can finally come to an agreement on their tax cut plan and the 2019 budget. The House and Senate have been relatively quiet places the past few weeks, as most floor debate has ended and all the major negotiations are occurring behind closed doors.
It doesn’t sound like the House and Senate Republicans are very far apart on the budget, possibly just looking at a difference of a few million dollars in an over $7 billion budget. But disagreements on how deep to cut taxes, with competing plans from both chambers and Governor Kim Reynolds’ office seems to be complicating things. And controversial items like a six-week abortion ban could still be snuck back into the debate, which would eat up several more days of debate.
That keeps the clock ticking for that 30-day fundraising limit. As of today, there are just 43 days left until the June 5 primary. If session goes into May, as Senate President Charles Schneider suggested it might recently, that clock could completely run out.
It’s possible that Republicans are intentionally delaying the end of session to cause problems for the Democrats’ gubernatorial race. Or they could just be bad at governing, unable to agree to a tax plan despite controlling all of government. Or both.
But fundraising isn’t the only concern here. The longer session lasts, the less time incumbent legislators have to campaign back home. With a likely difficult year ahead for their party, many House Republicans would like to ramp up their campaigns now and prepare for tough challengers. On the Senate side, though, there’s only one incumbent who’s really in serious risk of losing reelection (most of their held swing districts are open seats due to retirements), so they don’t face as much pressure.
However, even if session continues to run long, there’s still other ways for labor and other PAC money to support their intended candidate. Independent expenditures from labor PACs can promote their candidate on the TV airwaves and get mailers out to voters, filling in holes that the campaigns can no longer afford. But they can’t coordinate with the campaigns, and it’s always easier if the money is just flowing into one central hub.
by Pat Rynard