Members of the bipartisan Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted unanimously last week to dismiss a complaint filed against Democratic state Sen. Nate Boulton.
In the complaint, a fellow Des Moines-area lawyer said Boulton touched her inappropriately at a 2015 social event. The incident took place before Boulton was elected to the Statehouse, but the accusation nonetheless led him to end his gubernatorial campaign earlier this year.
The committee concluded the chamber’s ethics code does not extend to events that took place before a senator was elected. That was the correct decision, but it still is an unsatisfying conclusion, especially for the people of Senate District 16. With Democratic colleagues calling on Boulton to resign, it’s impossible to envision a scenario where Boulton effectively represents his district.
Senators did not formally sound off on the facts of the case, and Boulton himself has not denied the incident occurred. A statement filed by Boulton’s attorney targets his accuser’s credibility, calling her “overly flirtatious.” It includes screenshots of private messages to show the woman stayed in contact with Boulton about work and politics, even after the night she said he behaved inappropriately with her.
That was especially disappointing because Boulton issued a statement in May saying, “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.” However, shaming, blaming and making excuses is precisely what Boulton has done.
In fact, Boulton’s strategy here is textbook victim blaming, and it’s wholly unacceptable for an elected official. His response validates ongoing concerns about his fitness for public service.
Boulton is halfway through his first four-year term in the Iowa Senate, and has consistently turned down requests from fellow Democrats to step aside.
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Minority Leader Janet Petersen last week renewed her call for Boulton to resign. She previously declined to assign Boulton to committees as the ethics complaint proceeded, although Boulton still is considered an active member of the Democratic Caucus.
The way Boulton’s political allies respond now will set a precedent for similar situations in the future. We urge them to hold firm in refusing to excuse Boulton’s unacceptable behavior.
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