Blum's bucks without borders

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By now, the first folks have cleared the velvet ropes to attend a town hall meeting sponsored by Iowa 1st District U.S. Rep. Rod Blum.

His first forum was scheduled for a Dubuque gym Monday night. Attendees had to RSVP. They had to show ID, or maybe a birth certificate. They had to prove they live in the district. No outsiders allowed. Leave your signs, banners and backpacks at home.

Very exclusive. Call it “Club Rod.” His second town hall is tonight at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

Blum says he’s limiting attendance and denying entry to outsiders and potential non-real Americans to keep his events “Iowa nice.” Too bad he doesn’t follow that same philosophy when it comes to campaign bucks, or legislating.

During the 2016 election cycle, 46 percent of contributions to Blum’s campaign came from outside his district, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog. That’s better than his Democratic opponent, Monica Vernon, who got 79 percent of her money from outside the district. Still, Vernon’s not the one now asking for our papers.

And direct contributions are only part of the story. Blum also benefited mightily from outside groups that poured nearly $2.6 million into the race, both to support him and tar Vernon.

Among them is the American Action Network, based in Washington, D.C., which spent nearly $700,000 on TV ads attacking Vernon as a friend of Iranian terrorists. Another group, Ending Spending, created by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, spent $328,000 supporting Blum.

What do these two groups have in common, besides not being headquartered in the 1st District? Neither group discloses donors, according to OpenSecrets.

So if you want to go to Blum’s town hall, be prepared to prove who you are and where you live. But if you cut a check to some conservative group to help him get re-elected, anonymity is dandy. No backpacks, please, unless they’re full of dark money.

The biggest contributor to his campaign committee is the North Carolina Leadership Fund, also not local, which gave him $46,000. I couldn’t find much info about the fund, other than it was the top contributor to nine members of the House Freedom Caucus, now chaired by North Carolina U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows. That’s the group of roughly three-dozen very conservative House members who played a leading role in the crafting and passage of “Trumpcare” last week. Freedom Caucus fingerprints are all over the bill’s most reckless provisions. Blum’s included. Are they listening to their constituents, or someone else?

“Conservatives kept their promise and took a major step toward achieving access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” the American Action Network said in a statement. It’s talking about the same bill opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, heart, lung and diabetes associations, nurses, hospitals and virtually every organization normally in favor of “quality, affordable health care for all.” Hmm.

So from Blum and his pals we get dark money, even darker legislation and cyncial spin you’d believe only if your pre-existing condition is extreme gullibility. Not so “Iowa nice.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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