To: Interested Parties

From: Mark Smith, Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party

Date: Monday, June 8, 2020

Re: Washington Has Changed Senator Ernst – And Iowans Will Send Her Packing

Six years ago – thanks to hundreds of thousands of dark money dollars lifting her campaign from a non-starter – Joni Ernst became the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. 

Now, facing a double-digit fallout with voters, Senator Ernst is returning to the same dark money roots to prop up her fragile re-election. Only this time around, Iowans know Senator Ernst for who she is – a tried-and-true Washington politician – and no amount of dark-money ads can cover up a half-decade of putting her own political ambitions above the needs of Iowans.

Washington has changed Senator Ernst. Showered with corporate special interest donations, ritzy D.C. receptions, and new pathways to power through Mitch McConnell’s good graces, Senator Ernst of 2020 is unrecognizable to the empty promises that got her elected. Instead of ‘making D.C. squeal,’ Senator Ernst has made Iowans squeal – enabling and ignoring the very worst of Washington corruption, with her own dark money scandal growing worse by the day.

Senator Ernst has tried to shift blame for her re-election woes onto anyone but herself, citing “shifting demographics” for her growing unpopularity. But the truth is, her campaign is dragged down by a half-decade of voting to undermine health care, plotting “behind closed doors” to slash Social Security, and working against the needs of working Iowans – making Senator Ernst one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country and key to retaking the U.S. Senate. 

From suburban households, to generational farmers and producers, to the Obama-Trump blue-collar workforce, Iowans no longer trust Senator Ernst to fight for them – and come November, they’re going to send her packing.


No issue more defines Senator Ernst’s failure to fight for Iowans than her consequences-be-damned crusade to repeal Iowans’ health coverage. And to Senator Ernst’s detriment, no issue more drives Iowans to vote than health care. 

From standing in the way of prescription drug reform, to voting to roll back Iowa’s Medicaid expansion, to leading efforts to allow insurers to discriminate against the 1.3 million Iowans with pre-existing conditions, Senator Ernst has championed an anti-health care agenda crafted by Mitch McConnell and her corporate special interest backers that directly puts Iowa lives on the line.

As the COVID-19 pandemic ravages uncontrolled, the repercussions of Senator Ernst’s dangerous crusade have unfolded before voters: rural hospitals in financial turmoil, the uninsured left without a lifeline, and sick Iowans victimized by “junk” coverage plans so skimpy they could result in medical bills exceeding tens of thousands of dollars.

Voters support a health care agenda founded on empathy and equality – but for Senator Ernst, affordable coverage is just a political chip to be bargained away. Come November, Iowans will hold Senator Ernst accountable in November for her failure to fight for them.


Senator Ernst has tied her re-election to the third rail of politics: leading the charge to gut Iowans’ hard-earned Social Security benefits.

After opening the door to privatizing Social Security during her 2014 campaign, Senator Ernst has become one of the loudest voices in Washington for slashing Iowans’ retirement safety net. Ernst’s radical agenda isn’t what voters are looking for: with 74% of voters against any cuts to Social Security benefits, Senator Ernst’s priorities will be punished at the polls by an Iowa electorate where 25% of voters turn to the program for a sound retirement.

Indifferent to the impact on Iowans, Senator Ernst has treated Social Security as her political slush fund. The backlash to her effort to “take a sizable cut” of earned benefits was only second to the local and national outrage for pushing for cuts to be made “behind closed doors…so we’re not being scrutinized.” And in a telling display of her disconnect with the reality facing seniors, Senator Ernst was caught telling D.C. donors that the essential program is “out of control,” as her party leaders floated cuts after the 2020 election.

But if Iowans have anything to say, Senator Ernst’s radical agenda will end November 3. Voters will send a clear message that their hard-earned retirement benefits are to be strengthened and secured – and never put on the line. 


After a half-decade of putting corporate special interests above all else, Senator Ernst’s re-election finds itself at the whim of the very workers she’s thrown under the bus: the thousands of blue-collar workers whose jobs have been put on the line; and the generations of farmers and producers whose livelihoods have been a victim to Senator Ernst’s political ambitions.

Billions in tax giveaways to reward Wall Street CEOs with jobs moved overseas, while parents work day and night just to put food on the table. And exacerbated by a disastrous trade war and empty words for the ethanol industry, farm bankruptcies are spiking as families struggling to hold on to the land they’re nurtured for a century.

Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic puts an unprecedented number of Iowans out of work, Senator Ernst has refused to shelve her partisan indifference – opposing paid family leave, expanded unemployment benefits, and direct funding for state and local governments to prevent layoffs of first responders and essential workers. And Iowa’s meatpacking workforce has been put directly in harm’s way by Senator Ernst’s inexcusable push to force workers back on the line without ensuring the health protections they need.

True to history, Iowa’s workers will not go down silently – and their voice will be loud and clear in November. Senator Ernst has failed to fight for workers and families, and Iowans are ready for a new leader who will.