Staff Columnist

Can't say Nate Boulton didn't warn us

Memory muddied by booze, Iowa Senator still takes aim at accuser's reputation

Iowa Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Nate Boulton gives introductory remarks during a roundtable discussion at the Cedar Rapids Public Library downtown branch on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Nate Boulton gives introductory remarks during a roundtable discussion at the Cedar Rapids Public Library downtown branch on Friday, July 14, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Whether Iowa Sen. Nate Boulton pursued a woman in 2015 and repeatedly groped her isn’t the only thing voters in his district will need to weigh during the next election cycle. They, and the Democratic caucus, must also decide if a lawmaker willing bolster his image by engaging in a smear campaign is someone who should be helping to craft public policy.

By his own admission, Boulton was extremely intoxicated on Nov. 20, 2015 — the night that Sharon Wegner says she saw Boulton at two venues in Des Moines where he repeatedly and purposefully placed his hand on her backside.

“Senator Boulton deeply regrets whatever it was that happened,” Boulton’s attorney, Paige Fiedler, wrote in his response to the formal complaint Wegner filed with the Senate.

“While he may not be able to sincerely apologize for assaults he does not believe occurred, he recognized that by drinking too much, he put himself in a position where he is unable to say for sure. He accepts that in a state of extreme intoxication, it is at least possible he may have misread situations and boundaries …”

But even as Boulton admits to being “in a state of extreme intoxication” and “unable to say for sure” if he groped a woman, he also is attempting to tarnish the reputation of his accuser. And, to justify this behavior, Boulton refers to his initial statements in the wake of three women’s accusations against him, which forced him to end his bid for governor just before this year’s primary.

In a May 2018 statement, Boulton said, “I have said that I remember these situations differently, with a differing context, but declined to share more to avoid shaming, blaming or excuse making.”

In the response, his attorney adds, “Now, however, the current process is forcing such disclosures. Respondent (Boulton) feels duty-bound to cooperate with and respond substantively to this official Senate inquiry.”

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There you have it. Boulton warned the women what he would do if these accusations continued. And he was true to his word. Instead of seeking out witnesses to his behavior on the night in question, he chose instead to collect witnesses to Wegner’s behavior on other past occasions. In the narrative he presents, Wegner is the “overly flirtatious” aggressor, who continued to pursue him through social media and email contact. Nevermind that most of what he provides appears to be requests for professional assistance in Boulton’s area of law.

Sadly, it’s wholly unnecessary. Boulton’s response rightfully asserts the incidents took place before he was elected to the Iowa Senate, before he would have been bound by the ethics regulations of the body — which didn’t encompass interactions beyond the workplace.

Boulton remains adamant that he has overcome his drinking and will remain in the Senate. People in his district will ultimately determine his political fate; I hope they are already considering alternative options.

The silver lining is these voters at least have the information necessary to make a decision. Another member of the Iowa Senate, a person accused of misbehavior as part of the Republican Caucus’s internal investigation, remains hidden, shielded by GOP leadership from public scrutiny.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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