Ernst Has Refused to Answer Questions on Her Dark Money Scandal After a Federal Court Ordered the FEC to Take Action on “Iowa Values”

A new report from Iowa Starting Line details how the Trump Administration has “inserted itself into a court case involving Iowa Values” – Senator Joni Ernst’s dark money group run by her top aides – in an effort that appears to be aimed at providing political protection. The report follows the DOJ’s “shady and completely improper” legal filing on Friday after a federal court ordered the FEC to take action on Iowa Values

Adav Noti, a senior director at nonpartisan elections watchdog Campaign Legal Center, argued that Iowa Values has committed “egregious violations” of campaign finance law in their effort to prop up Ernst’s re-election campaign. He noted that the DOJ “rarely, if ever, intervenes in cases involving the Federal Election Commission” – and it “looks terrible” that the DOJ appears to take a “political position rather than a legal one.”

Senator Ernst has refused to answer questions about her work in “close concert” with the dark money group. Instead, she has continued to employ the dark money fundraising consultant at the center of the AP’s groundbreaking investigation and even tried to hide the names of her staffers in a shady payroll scheme that “may have violated the spirit, and possibly the letter” of the law.

“Not only has Senator Ernst refused to come clean on her dark money scandal, now she’s silently standing by as her allies in Washington abuse their taxpayer-funded resources to try to shield her dark money group from oversight,” said Jeremy Busch, Iowa Democratic Party spokesperson. “In full-crisis mode two weeks from Election Day, Senator Ernst has once again shown that there’s no length she won’t go – even if it means engaging in political corruption to try to win. It’s clear that Washington has changed Senator Ernst and she is unfit to represent Iowans.”

Iowa Starting Line: DOJ Intervenes To Protect Ernst In ‘Political’ Move, Legal Expert Warns

By: Elizabeth Meyer

October 20, 2020

  • The Justice Department has inserted itself into a court case involving Iowa Values, a dark money group with ties to Sen. Joni Ernst, arguing the Federal Election Commission cannot be compelled to investigate the charges against Iowa Values because it does not have enough voting members.
  • Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation at Campaign Legal Center, described the Justice Department’s intervention in the case as “shady and completely improper.”
  • “For DOJ — which by law has no role in this case — to insert itself after a judgement has been issued, and to only do that after the judgement appears to be causing some political harm to the President’s ally, it looks terrible, and it’s exactly why the Department of Justice has no role in these cases,” Noti told Starting Line. “They really should not have gotten involved. They have no place in the matter, and by inserting themselves they’ve made it look like the Department of Justice is taking a political position rather than a legal one.”
  • “They’re pretty egregious violations, even in the current world where coordination between candidates and outside groups really pushes the boundaries,” Noti said. “This was fairly egregious conduct by this Iowa Values group in support of the Ernst campaign.”
  • Iowa Values is a tax-exempt 501 (c)(4) that CLC and others have accused of illegally coordinating with Ernst’s reelection campaign by placing ads, releasing statements and soliciting donations in her favor.
  • The Campaign Legal Center is not the only group to ask the FEC to investigate Iowa Values. The Campaign for Accountability and American Democracy Legal Fund also filed complaints in light of the AP’s reporting early this year.
  • Despite several complaints against Iowa Values and other political nonprofits, Noti said the Justice Department’s intervention in this case was “very unusual” because it rarely, if ever, intervenes in cases involving the Federal Election Commission due to the political nature of the cases FEC investigates.

Read the full report here.