During the course of her reelection campaign, Sen. Joni Ernst has featured testimonials on social media from Iowans speaking to her support for farmers and tax relief. What the videos fail to mention, however, are the links between the Republican Party of Iowa and the men praising Ernst.
On July 29, Ernst’s campaign Twitter account posted a video of Tom Sands, who they described as a “small businessman and farmer from Louisa County.” But the campaign fails to mention Sands was a 14-year state legislator. In the video, Sands identifies himself as president of the Iowa Taxpayers Association.
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has helped people all across Iowa — but don’t just take it from me,” Ernst’s campaign wrote on Twitter.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has helped people all across Iowa – but don’t just take it from me.
Tom Sands is a small businessman and farmer from Louisa County. Hear from him how tax relief has helped him and his family. pic.twitter.com/WblCPCnWo6
— Joni Ernst (@joniernst) July 29, 2020
And in October, Ray Gaesser, “a farmer in Adams County,” applauded Ernst for delivering “major victories for Iowa’s biofuel industry.”
Ray knows I’ve always fought and won for Iowa’s farmers, and I always will. pic.twitter.com/AFCFXejtjl
— Joni Ernst (@joniernst) October 6, 2020
Gaesser, a former president of the American Soybean Association, was a candidate for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2018.
Ernst’s videos, meant to convey support from everyday Iowans but actually feature high-profile Republicans, echo tactics seen in other competitive U.S. Senate races this year, such as Maine and Arizona, where the candidates failed to mention the party ties of those they featured in ads.
In the 2018 Iowa governor’s race, Starting Line found that a TV ad ran by Gov. Kim Reynolds featured three Republican Party activists “posing as seemingly neutral Iowans who are upset at a politician.” While it is not unusual, the article points out, for politicians to utilize party faithful in ads, the use of current and former officials rather than everyday voters can signal that the candidate doesn’t have many grassroots supporters willing to appear in videos on their behalf.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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