Opinion

A taxing debate over hypocrisy in Iowa's race for governor

The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

So what’s it going to be, Iowans, a lack of transparency or bushels of hypocrisy?

That’s where we’re at as the race for governor approaches the home stretch.

Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell released a wafer-thin stack of tax records for Iowans to peruse, instead of coming clean with years of returns bearing important details. We know how much he paid in 2017, but not specific sources of income. Forget figuring out how he operated in the years before he ran for governor.

Republicans assailing Hubbell also point out the retired businessman, as a member of the Iowa Power Fund Board, voted in favor of incentives for DuPont’s ill-fated cellulosic ethanol venture near Nevada while owning DuPont stock.

Hubbell’s campaign insists he didn’t profit from the venture, which was embraced by the Branstad-Reynolds administration. Tax records could bring clarity.

But let’s make no mistake here, folks. Republicans aren’t really all that interested in transparency.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Iowa GOP leaders have spent the better part of the last two years shrugging at President Donald Trump’s shady business dealings, his failure to release any tax records whatsoever and shameless drive to turn the presidency into his personal ATM. They enthusiastically cheered his candidacy and have refused repeatedly to condemn his conduct. They sold us the king of ill-fated ventures.

When you sink that low, it’s tough to take the high road. It’s no longer on your map.

And when the subject turns to transparency, don’t forget it was the Branstad-Reynolds team that ran for re-election in 2014 without once mentioning plans to privatize the state’s Medicaid program. With the election safely behind it, the administration then made a decision affecting hundreds of thousands of Iowans and health care providers with zero input from those who would might be harmed.

It’s arguably the most far-reaching public policy decision of the last 25 years in Iowa and it was made swiftly, unilaterally and without a full exploration of the problems it would cause. Warnings were ignored. Critics were dismissed.

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Reynolds conceded during her first Condition of the State speech mistakes were made. And yet, they keep on being made, even as her administration repeatedly claims the whole thing is a great success. Clients denied critical care and providers who aren’t getting paid disagree, strongly.

Team Reynolds claims managed care is saving money, but they can’t explain their numbers. When a member of an advisory board overseeing the Medicaid switch became an outspoken critic, Reynolds showed him the door.

Medicaid is one among many decisions made by the Republicans with scant transparency and no real input from affected Iowans. We’ve got a Legislature that routinely crafted major bills behind closed doors and, when they came to light, a governor who refused to say where she stood. Transparency is good politics. Governing? Not so much.

So, yeah, Hubbell needs to come clean on his taxes. But Reynolds should say much more about her plans for the next four years. What new surprises for Iowa are hiding behind all this transparency talk?

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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