The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 15, 2014

Clarify campaign involvement rules for Iowa politicians

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
Jan. 9

---- — During the upcoming session, Iowa lawmakers will probably be looking at clarifying rules relating to presidential campaign involvement for Iowa’s House and Senate members.

Even though we expect our state leaders to be familiar with whatever rules are in place, a clarification is a wise move, considering the controversy that swirled around former Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo.

Sorenson was connected with the presidential campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul during the last Iowa caucus campaigns.

In October, Sorenson announced that he would be vacating his position after a special investigator found it likely that Sorenson violated legislative rules by receiving money from a political action committee.

Shoring up some wording and increasing transparency is a good move. One of the first concerns of many Iowa leaders was that the allegations could give other states more fodder for trying to displace Iowa as the starting point in the caucus/primary season.

That’s a position we want to keep.

As the holder of that pole position, Iowa has a lot of influence on which candidates continue with their presidential aspirations.

Considering that important responsibility, it is imperative that Iowa’s lawmakers remain above board in any dealings with presidential campaigns — and that rules are clearly spelled out.

Senate ethics rules ban senators from receiving money “directly or indirectly” form a political action committee or a presidential campaign.

As outlined in James Lynch’s article Monday on legislative ethics, senators from both parties say they are working on changes to Senate rules to make it “abundantly clear” senators cannot accept payment for working on presidential campaigns.

Apparently, adopting the Senate rule is not a priority for the House, which requires members to report their employers, according to House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha.

“We’re interested in disclosure,” he said. He added that House members from both parties have worked for presidential campaigns in the past, without any ethics problems.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, expects action early in the session, since 2016 candidates already are visiting Iowa. He and Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, have reportedly been discussing wording of such a proposal.

We’re not saying that the House and the Senate must adopt the same rules. However, making sure they are “abundantly clear” is of the essence — including making clear the punitive actions should rules be violated.

Being first in the caucus/primary system comes with a lot of benefits for the state of Iowa. That, in turn, creates some caveats.

Abundantly clear rules can go a long way in assuring a clean process. That’s exactly what we need to maintain to keep the nation’s first caucus.

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Jan. 9

50-year-old warning: Too many Americans still ignore surgeon general’s advice about smoking

It was 50 years ago Saturday that the Surgeon General of the United States, Luther Terry, issued a report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer.

At the time, it was considered an historic essay, one The Associated Press described as “one of the most important documents in U.S. public health history.”

That was the start of warning labels on packages of cigarettes.

Smokers took them for granted, but the warnings failed to curtail the level of smoking in the country.

The government took another step by banning smoking advertisements on commercial television.

Then they prohibited smoking advertising on billboards.

Cigarette smoking is the major cause of cancer of the lungs and larynx. Second-hand smoke has been blamed for causing cancers in people who’ve never been held hostage by the habit.

In recent years, state governments have banned smoking in public places.

While we’re generally opposed to government acting as our nanny, such measures have improved public health.

It’s laughable now that it took a 10-man special advisory committee to take 14 months to determine smoking is bad for you.

Then again, it was in an era when people could still smoke in movie theaters, when there were ashtrays on the armrest of seats in airplanes.

The panel’s report concluded: “Cigarette smoking is a health hazard of sufficient importance in the United States to warrant appropriate remedial action.”

But the tobacco lobby had friends in Congress, and that remedial action took decades to come about, despite the declaration by the surgeon general that there would be “no footdragging” by the government to impose steps to convince people that smoking was harmful to their health.

Fifty years later, government has done what it could to warn people of the dangers of taking up the habit. Yet people still do it.

You have to wonder why