Iowa 1st District candidate Thomas Heckroth calls for more transparency from rival

Heckroth questions Abby Finkenauer's work for nonprofit advocacy group

Thomas Heckroth (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Thomas Heckroth (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa 1st District U.S. House Democratic hopeful Thomas Heckroth’s campaign — asserting an opponent is “playing by a different set of rules” — has challenged her to pledge not to work for any group lobbying lawmakers during the 2018 Iowa legislative session.

“We need to reduce the influence of money in the legislative process and make sure our representatives at the state and federal level are transparent,” he said.

Heckroth cites a claim that state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, failed to report that she had been hired in September 2015 as state director for Make It Work and continued in that position during the 2016 legislative session. The national nonprofit advocates for economic policies such as equal pay, affordable day care, paid family leave and earned sick days.

“I believe she owes Iowans a pledge not to be employed by these groups during this congressional race,” said Heckroth, of Cedar Falls.

He said Finkenauer failed to report the change in employment as required by the Iowa House of Representatives ethics rules.

Finkenauer’s campaign manager, Joe Farrell, said it “speaks for itself that Thomas is attempting to revive a false and discredited right-wing attack originally made by a group funded by Robert Mercer, the same guy who funded Breitbart and gave us Steve Bannon.”

It’s disappointing Finkenauer won’t accept the challenge, Heckroth spokesman Sam Roecker said, because “if we’re going to defeat Rod Blum and retake this district, we need a nominee focused on the needs of this district, not on what’s best for PACs and lobbyists.”

Finkenauer and Heckroth are two of four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 20-county 1st District that includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown. Courtney Rowe and George Ramsey, both of Cedar Rapids, also are running. The winner will face Blum, a Dubuque Republican.

In addition to failing to report her relationship with the advocacy group, Heckroth said, Finkenauer introduced legislation focused on Make It Work’s priorities.

“Regardless of whether we agree with the objectives of outside groups like this or not, the fact is representatives and candidates shouldn’t be influenced in this manner,” he said.

Earlier in the campaign, Heckroth challenged Finkenauer not to accept contributions from political action committees and lobbyists while the Legislature is in session.

Iowa law prohibits lobbyists and political action committees from making contributions to candidates for statewide and legislative offices during legislative session. The 2018 session, which started Jan. 8, is set to run for 100 days or until mid-April.

Finkenauer rejected that challenge, arguing that foregoing lobbyists’ campaign contribution during the session would penalize her federal campaign during those months leading up to the June primary. Heckroth, on the other hand, could accept those contributions during that time.

Finkenauer has raised more than $600,000 through December 2017 and collected several endorsements from labor unions and groups that back female and abortion rights candidates.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, Heckroth raised $133,822 and had $105,296 cash on hand through October.

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