Panel quickly dismisses ethics complaint against state senator

Iowa lawmakers continue to get calls for greater safety measures at the Statehouse. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

An Iowa Senate ethics committee on Friday quickly dismissed a complaint from two citizen groups alleging that a state senator involved in livestock operations had improperly benefited from legislation he supported. 

The complaint involved Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, and was filed by Food & Water Action and Iowa Citizens for Committee improvement. 

Sen. Ken Rozenboom is a Republican from Oskaloosa.

A bipartisan six-member panel unanimously dismissed the complaint after a few minutes of discussion. 

Democratic Sen. Pam Jochum of Dubuque said the groups had failed to prove Rozenboom and his family alone had benefited from his support of what critics call the “ag gag rule,” which restricts video recording of livestock operation offenses in confinements. 

Jochum said the legislation did not just benefit Rozenboom’s operations, but all confinement operations.

She added: “We all believe that the people’s trust in our government is paramount. I have not taken the allegations lightly.”

Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, said the complaint contained a series of inaccurate references to various livestock regulations. “If we allow this to continue, I think it sets a bad precedent for the entire Senate,” Behn said. 

Rozenboom owns and operates Rosewood Pork.

In their complaint, the citizen groups noted that legislators’ expertise in various fields can be a benefit during debates on legislation. However, they added, “Due to his ties to and direct economic interests in the concentrated animal feeding operation industry, his position as chair of the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee (and the power that comes with that position), and the personal reasons upon which he has repeatedly advocated in support of ag-gag legislation, we feel that Sen. Rozenboom does not reflect credit on the General Assembly and does not inspire the confidence, respect and trust of the public.”

Sen. Pam Jochum is a Democrat from Dubuque. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Senate)

Rozenboom in a written response called the complaint “baseless.” Rozenboom said he has never had a criminal, civil or administrative action taken against him. 

The Legislature has other farmers on the Agriculture Committee and the Natural Resources Committee, attorneys on the Judiciary Committee and union officials on the Labor Committee, Rozenboom noted. 

“The legislation referenced in the complaint prohibits individuals from engaging in food operation trespass,” Rozenboom wrote. “The bills do not confer an economic advantage on my farming operation or any other special favor.”

The committee met for less than half-hour and had no other business.