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Orange you glad a Florida outfit is targeting our elections and struggling Iowans?
Only three groups lobbied to pass the lousy elections bill that just tore like a bullet train through the Iowa Legislature, fueled by fictional fraud.
There's the Iowa Minute Man Civil Defense Corps, which supports right-wing legislation. And the Kirkwood Institute, led by Iowa attorney Alan Ostergren, who helped the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign sue 'rogue” auditors last year.
And then there's the Opportunity Solutions Project, based in Tallahassee, Fla. Its lobbyist at the Statehouse, Andy Conlin of West Des Moines, is registered in favor of the elections bill, as well as measures that would cut unemployment benefits and kick folks off public assistance programs.
Why do Floridians want to make it harder to vote or add to the misery of struggling Iowans as a pandemic continues? It can't be that they're jealous of our climate.
It's just because that's what the Opportunity Solutions Project does, all across the country.
It's the lobbying arm of the Foundation for Government Accountability. The CEO of Opportunity Solutions, Tarren Bragdon, is the president and CEO of the FGA. The operations director of Opportunity Solutions, Jonathan Bechtel, is COO and general counsel for FGA.
Their biographies note Bragdon's experience cleaning out cow stalls while Bechtel stocked shelves and broke down bags of flour. Now they're players in a network of conservative think tanks, bill mills and foundations that craft great ideas for kneecapping the needy.
They've been working hard in recent years to convince legislators to add drug tests or work requirements to public assistance programs. They've lobbied to cut food assistance and limit unemployment benefits, even during a pandemic.
They've campaigned against ballot initiatives expanding Medicaid coverage. Last year, they tried and failed to defeat an August referendum in Missouri expanding Medicaid coverage, arguing 'able-bodied” patients would be stealing money from schools.
Bechtel bragged at the 2020 American Legislative Exchange Council conference that FGA had helped prevent Medicaid expansion in 13 states.
Sludge, an online investigative reporting site, found in 2019 that the FGA had received $2.3 million since 2013 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative groups and causes.
Among the Bradley Foundation's greatest hits was helping buy billboards in Milwaukee in 2010 and 2012 proclaiming 'Voter Fraud is a Felony!” picturing a Black man behind bars. The foundation also funded legal challenges to civil rights protections, including the Voting Rights Act.
So these are not folks particularly interested in making voting easier or more equitable. Their playbook is all about fictional fraud, the stuff that built up to the big lie, and using it as an excuse to make absentee balloting more difficult and to throw up barriers to public officials or others who might help voters make their voices heard.
Our legislators, still spouting nonsense about a stolen election, sided with this shady network of think tanks, dark money nonprofits and rich guys while ignoring overwhelming, bipartisan opposition to these election changes.
No doubt they will be signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, who FGA recently called 'a tireless advocate for Iowa workers and families.”
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