The Outside Money That Fuels the Iowa Far Right

Book bans and anti-abortion state Supreme Court judges are just some of the things that money can buy in Iowa

Art Cullen May 5, 2023

Art Cullen, editor of the Storm Lake Times Pilot in Storm Lake, Iowa, published the following editorial on February 21 in response to an appearance by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at a Moms for Liberty event.

Moms for Liberty, an organization with close ties to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has spearheaded a national campaign to ban books from public school libraries.

On April 20, the Iowa legislature passed a law that instructs Iowa public school systems to remove from their libraries by Jan. 1, 2024, all books that describe “sex acts” as defined by section 702.1 of the Iowa Code.  The law exempts sex education textbooks and the Bible.

Gov. Reynolds heralded the bill’s passage: “This legislation defines parents’ rights in law, requires transparency, and sets boundaries to protect Iowa’s children from woke indoctrination.”  In 2021, Gov. Reynolds signed a law that banned the teaching of the “divisive concepts” that the United States or Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist. It could have been worse. In 2022, then-state Sen. Jake Chapman, who at the time was president of the GOP-controlled state Senate, sponsored legislation that would have could have punished any public school teacher who assigned a students to read any book deemed “hard-core pornography” or “obscene” with up to one year in prison.

We are led to believe that the gay bashing and book banning are some sort of unique Iowa grassroots thing, a moms’ uprising in defense of decency for fear that the elementary holiday music concert will turn drag show.

Moms for Liberty are showing up at school board meetings raising Cain over dirty books, and the governor says that if one is banned in Orange City it shall be so in Storm Lake.

School voucher bills are being pressed across the Midwest, funded by charter school companies that stand to make a fortune. It is not because the good parents of St. Mary’s prayed long and hard for God to open the government’s eyes and treasury to the value of a good Catholic education.

Guns are being handed out to teachers and secretaries in Cherokee and Spirit Lake schools, as voters approved a gun-rights amendment to the state constitution that pretends to supersede the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was funded by Beltway political action groups.

The Iowa Supreme Court has been remade after Iowa Family Leader, whose leader Bob Vander Plaats hauled in wheel barrows of money from out of state to unseat three justices who ruled that we must not discriminate against gays. The refashioned court rules that there is no right to abortion, and, by the way, that the agrochemical complex shall not be regulated (the real objective).

Local opposition is organized against wind turbines using science fiction produced somewhere that claims harm to human and animal health from noise and flicker. They say the towers are a blight on a horizon otherwise unimpeded by trees, but massive consolidated livestock complexes are not. These turf grass groups produce bunk that reads like academic work such that you can fool a fool. Where do they get this stuff? And how does it get repeated by then-President Donald Trump in Cedar Rapids? And how does it get legitimized?

The Moms for Liberty is a group organized in Florida that receives big donations for its political action fund that spreads the word to gay-fearing moms across the country. More than 200 anti-gay bills have been introduced in state legislatures. This is not just the work of Ron DeSantis and Kim Reynolds responding to their body politic. It is, in fact, a play by the corporate power structure to consolidate years of investment in building a certain sort of order.

King Henry had the Church of England to impose his moral diktats. Constantine used the Holy Roman Empire. The people who run the United States (Charles Koch, Goldman Sachs and Grover Norquist, among the select few) decided long ago that they could control the country through the pulpit and the radio airwaves by feeding them a familiar narrative: the heathens are out to get your children. While you’re looking for God, they’re picking your pocket.

To wit: We intend to eliminate the state income tax to free the Farm Bureau and the rest of the financial industry from the burden of public schools. There cannot be a discussion in schools about how we robbed the Ioway people of their land between the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, because it may suggest that there’s something wrong with a system that predicates itself on dominion: It is my right, indeed my Christian obligation, to exploit land and beast and people who are defined as lesser — Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, Asians, whoever you need as an enemy to distract you from how you are getting screwed out of the farm.

It’s all about money, always has been. It’s not about your soul. It was about the money when the Illinois Central, powered by Chicago’s elite, protruded west of Dubuque to bring the love of Christ to the Native people and drive them farther west until they could be driven no more. Then we starved them, froze them to death, abused their children and hanged them for not being Christian, and for being in our way.

That was no organic grassroots evolution. It was a campaign of terror based on Genesis. It is written into our cultural DNA and is easily exploited. It’s still going on today by terrorizing Blacks, gays, refugees and anybody else who doesn’t pray your creed. If you can be made to think by the AM radio station and your Facebook feed that trans queens are a central problem for education, or that slavery was not at the foundation of the Republic, you can be made to think just about anything. That is the whole point of the effort cultivated for so long.

Art Cullen

Art Cullen is the editor of the Storm Lake Times Pilot of Storm Lake, Iowa, and the editor of The Progressive Populist magazine. In 2017, Cullen won the Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for a series of editorials about a how industrial agriculture lobbyists and local elected officials conspired to thwart environmental regulations that protected public waters. He is the author of Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper (Viking).

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