After returning college students packed campus bars last month, Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered a temporary closure of bars and nightclubs in six counties. The ensuing COVID-19 spike that catapulted Iowa to the worst spread in the country had already happened, but it was the first time that Reynolds had re-implemented a restriction from the early stages of the pandemic.
However, it seems that packing parties with mask-less Iowans is just fine if it means you’re raising money for Republican candidates.
Last night, a crowd of well over 100 people attended the Pottawattamie County Republicans’ fundraiser in Council Bluffs. Photos shared on social media showed attendees packed around tables, with few people wearing a mask.
Great to be in Pottawattamie County Iowa tonight to talk about the success of @realdonaldtrump. Completely packed crowd. Iowa will deliver again for Trump-Pence! Four More Years. pic.twitter.com/Cnnp7xLPIM
— Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) September 5, 2020
Several of the state’s top Republican leaders and elected officials were on hand, including congressional candidate David Young, RPI Chair Jeff Kaufmann, and several state legislators. Sen. Joni Ernst, under heavy fire this week for engaging in conspiracy theories about COVID-19 deaths and health care workers, was also at the packed, indoor Republican fundraiser. In photos we’ve seen online, she’s not wearing a mask, but we’ve only found ones where she’s speaking, a safe distance away from the crowd.
The featured guest that evening was South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is thought to have presidential ambitions. Her leadership in South Dakota on the pandemic has mirrored much of Reynolds’ in Iowa with extremely lax restrictions — both have brought disastrous results. As Noem visited Council Bluffs, her state was the second-worst in the country for the past week’s per capita spread. Iowa is now third after topping the list for most of the past week.
Noem also drew national criticism for proudly welcoming the annual Sturgis biker rally back to her state despite the significant threat for spread. The state’s cases have shot upward since, and other states have reported cases linked to the biker event. There’s been a specific concern from this in Council Bluffs itself, where large biker nights continued this summer, including ones that drew people who were attending Sturgis. Noem has dismissed health recommendations as the advice of an “elite class of so-called experts.”
Iowa is in great hands, especially because of the Pottawatamie County Republicans.
Thank you for letting me share South Dakota's story tonight. God bless you all! pic.twitter.com/ZT7PGIyapi
— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) September 5, 2020
One of the Council Bluffs event organizers replied on Twitter that they had taken safety measures for the event, including the room being at half-capacity, extra cleaning and using bottled water instead of pitchers. Feel free to look at the photos and decide for yourself.
While it does not appear that Reynolds was on hand for the Council Bluffs event, she has been featured at many local Republican fundraisers and events this summer, often while not following her own recommendations for wearing a mask and social distancing.
A reader flagged for me that @KimReynoldsIA attended Greene County Republicans’ fall fundraiser over the weekend, sans mask and adequate social distancing— the Gov. stressed today at a press conference the importance of personal responsibility in fighting COVID pic.twitter.com/xti1SOrKP6
— Isabella Murray (@ibellamurray) September 2, 2020
Indeed, a clear and consistent pattern has developed over the summer of Iowa Republicans holding packed fundraisers with little to no COVID-19 precautions. Time and again, the very Republican politicians who tell the public that Iowans must take “personal responsibility” in the pandemic show none of their own as they try to win the November elections.
As Bleeding Heartland noted earlier this week, Reynolds has repeatedly appeared in public at Republican events and elsewhere where she wears no mask, embraces other mask-less attendees and crowds around large groups of people, all of whom are not wearing masks. Reynolds has done all of this while placing the blame on the state’s most recent massive outbreak on the actions of college students.
Laura Belin also pointed out that Ernst had claimed at a recent Hardin County GOP fundraiser that “I think we’re OK” because the event was held outdoors. Last night’s in Council Bluffs was not.
There are of course going to be cases where Iowans from every walk of life — elected officials or not — are going to do something that isn’t 100% safe during the pandemic. But large, packed indoors events with no masks seem so needlessly and egregiously reckless at a time when state leaders are urging everyone to do their part to get COVID-19 spread under control.
The packed bars and college parties, photos and videos of which were featured in many Iowa news stories, drew a response from the Governor. But when it’s her own political supporters doing it, not only does she turn a blind eye to the COVID-spreading activity, she often actively participates in it.
And it’s important to note: unlike young college students, the attendees at these events look more to be in the age range that is of higher risk for severe complications due to COVID-19.
One must wonder what a bar or restaurant owner or a laid-off service worker feels about seeing these photos coming out of packed Iowa Republican fundraisers. Their livelihoods were once again put on hold as a way to reduce COVID-19 spread, all while the politicians who targeted just them engage in reckless behavior. If that behavior leads to even more cases of the coronavirus in Iowa, that pushes off the state’s timeline to getting back to a sense of normalcy that much more.
Meanwhile today, another 23 Iowans passed away due to COVID-19 as reported in the past 24 hours, the second-worst one day death total for Iowa of the pandemic. Another 1,024 positive cases were added to the state’s totals as well.
by Pat Rynard
Iowa Starting Line is an independently owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.