Government

PAC aims to pressure Gov. Reynolds into stronger COVID-19 measures

Fundraiser asks for 'conditional pledges' tied to number of Iowans in intensive care

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at an Aug. 14 news conference in Cedar Rapids. A national PAC and an Iowa advocacy group a
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at an Aug. 14 news conference in Cedar Rapids. A national PAC and an Iowa advocacy group a different kind of political fundraiser that aims pressure Reynolds into taking stronger steps to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. (Associated Press)

A national PAC and Iowa advocacy group are kicking off what they call the first-of-its-kind political fundraiser in Iowa to pressure Gov. Kim Reynolds into strengthening coronavirus mitigation efforts and preventing Iowa’s hospitals from overflowing with COVID-19 patients.

Although virus mitigation efforts in Iowa have “pulled us back from the brink, (Reynolds) is pulling back on those efforts and things are expected to get worse,” said Jeremy Dumkrieger, co-founder of Iowans for a Safe Return to School.

For example, the governor announced late Thursday she was lifting spectator restrictions on events such as high school sports, which had been limited to two per student-athlete.

Dumkrieger’s group is partnering with a national political fundraising firm to raise money to be used to defeat Reynolds, who is expected to seek re-election in 2022.

What’s different is that Dumkrieger is asking Iowans to able to make conditional contributions — pledges — to be collected only if Reynolds doesn’t take action his group believes is necessary. The benchmark will be Iowa having more than 200 patients in intensive care units March 31.

The state on Thursday reported 119 patients in intensive care units, 108 of them with COVID-19.

“This campaign lets Iowans keep pressure on the governor to do what’s right,” Dumkrieger said.

Steve Lavine, CEO of LevelField, which is working with Dumkrieger, said the objective is not to put more money into politics, but “to give regular people a seat at the table.”

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“The goal is to influence the political process, without corrupting it further,” by turning small pledges into “a countervailing force that makes (Reynolds) think twice” with no money changing hands, he said.

This approach was used unsuccessfully in an effort to pressure Maine Sen. Susan Collins to vote against confirming President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh. Collins voted to confirm and defeated her Democratic challenger in November. LevelField was not involved in that campaign.

In Iowa, if Reynolds takes necessary steps, such as a stronger mask mandate, broader capacity limits and further limits on indoor gatherings, and hospital ICU capacity remains below that 200 threshold, then pledges will go away, Lavine and Dumkrieger said.

If hospitals go over capacity, then people who pledged will be billed, and the funds will be part of a media and digital campaign during the next gubernatorial election

Reynolds’ pandemic actions, Dumkrieger said, have been guided by “deep-pocketed donors.”

“If campaign dollars are what moves the governor, then it’s time we, as Iowans, come together and have our voice heard in a language the governor understands,” Dumkrieger said.

Pledged contributions give small-dollar donors an ability “to take a stand when politicians take the wrong side of important issues — without putting more money into the system,” Lavine said.

More information is available at http://levelfield.health/iowa.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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