Shooing out the public

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

The Iowa House of Representatives has denied press credentials to a digital journalist from Des Moines because she has liberal viewpoints. Laura Belin, publisher of Bleeding Heartland, was singled out for denial while other political journalists with conservative points of view were allowed credentials. It is an attempt to silence independent journalism, plain and simple.

First a bit of background: Belin is our friend. She is the daughter of the famous attorney David Belin, who was staff counsel to the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy. David Belin was also a generous and much beloved Republican in the era of Bob Ray Republicanism. He was an owner of the Ames Tribune and was a vigorous defender of the First Amendment, and honest and open government. Laura Belin before founding Bleeding Heartland was a professional journalist covering Russia. She is no “amateur,” as the state Republican Party chairman called her.

Laura Belin is an astute observer of politics left and right, but concentrates her efforts on reporting the Democratic side of the ledger for political junkies. She offers straight-forward statistical analysis on legislative races, takes deep dives into state fiscal affairs with guest analysts, and the like. She offers deep insight into progressive politics, which should be valuable to Republicans figuring out how to keep Democrats out of power.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer made a petty political mark by trying to diminish Belin. But many others, including esteemed straight news reporters like James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and conservative bloggers, stuck up for Belin. They said political parties should not decide who is a journalist and who isn’t.

That is the most important point in this sorry episode. The press enjoys no license. We are the people. Anybody has the right to be a reporter. If Belin wants to listen to Upmeyer mislead the public, that is Belin’s inalienable right as a citizen. The Iowa House is locking out the public from its debates. It starts with closed subcommittee hearings. It expands by not allowing critics into the people’s House. The very idea of credentialing reporters is anathema to the idea of citizen journalism. You are watching democracy fade before your eyes, when the likes of Laura Belin is considered an enemy of the people.

Bad numbers for King

Some interesting poll numbers on Steve King that should give Republican challengers pause: He has a 68% unfavorable rating among Fourth District Republicans. So says a poll conducted by the liberal political action committee Majority Rules. The numbers tend to flow with other polls we followed. Here is the kicker: King trails a generic Democrat or JD Scholten by seven percentage points if the election were held today.

These numbers tell us that King should win a Republican primary that now has three interested candidates, led by State Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull. Feenstra brags $100,000 cash on hand, but King had a room full of Republicans eating out of his hand on Saturday in Primghar. (See Editor’s Notebook on this page.) It won’t help Feenstra that candidates are emerging in Story and Shelby counties. King can beat Feenstra straight up, from what we see. Add two or three more characters into the race and King easily coasts to re-nomination; he needs 35% minimum, and he heads into a primary north of that number. Almost every delegate to a district convention is a King supporter, and they will decide the nominee if a primary can’t. King won his first bid by open convention against a stronger field that included Brent Siegrist of Council Bluffs and John Redwine of Sioux City. King also clobbered Rick Bertrand of Sioux City in a primary two years ago.

The numbers also suggest that a Democrat can beat him because independents can’t stand his racist language.

The district is fed up with him, but the party isn’t — no matter what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy thinks.

Scholten’s performance in November and King’s performance since tell us that the polls are right. That’s why King scheduled a town hall meeting for the first time in years on the friendliest territory he could find, in O’Brien County, right in Feenstra’s back yard.

His metamorphosis from near-white supremacist to plain-talking Steve took a full week and was wrapped up by Saturday.

Which is why Scholten should forget about anything but running against King. The polls say he can do it. Scholten knows he can do it, too.