Scholten’s magic-wand issues: campaign finance and antitrust reform

Democratic congressional candidate J.D. Scholten speaks during a candidate forum sponsored by the Des Moines Partnership on Oct. 13, 2020. (Screen shot from livestream)

If election to Congress came with a one-day guarantee to pass any piece of legislation, Democrat J.D. Scholten said his first priority would be reforming money in politics.

Scholten, who is making his second run for Iowa’s 4th congressional district seat, was responding to a question Tuesday during a virtual candidate forum sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

“The first thing is, we’ve got to get money out of politics,” Scholten said. He said members of Congress are expected to spend as much time raising money as they are doing the job they were elected to do. “A lot of folks are just rushing in to vote and then they go across the street and fundraise. They go in and they have their five minutes at a hearing and then they’re across the street for fundraising.”

Members of Congress don’t get to know each other, he said, and “… there’s no incentive to work together. There’s all this incentive to just throw these bombshells at each other and just fundraise off some viral moment of ‘I got you’ or something like that.”

Scholten didn’t offer specifics and his campaign website merely states that he stands for “rules that minimize the amount of corporate and special-interest money flooding our political system.”

Scholten’s second magic-wand issue wasn’t health care, as some might expect. “I feel other people would do health care and so even though that’s extremely important, I’ll let other folks do this,” he said.

Instead, he highlighted the importance to 4th District farmers of antitrust reform, which he said the pandemic had made even more apparent.

“At the beginning of this pandemic, what we saw were these multinational corporations, they’ve made consumers pay more than they ever have for meat. Workers here in Sioux City are getting the same wage as when my family moved from Nevada to Sioux City in 1984. And they’re working in dangerous conditions early on. And then the last part, they’re squeezing farmers,” Scholten said.

He proposes modernizing the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act and reinstating the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration to be a “standalone entity” with the power to enforce antitrust laws in the meatpacking business, protect farmers and ranchers from “predatory and retaliatory trade practices,” and simplify the process for farmers to bring lawsuits alleging unfair practices, according to his campaign website.

Iowa’s 4th District has long been a GOP stronghold; as of Oct. 1, Republicans held a 13,000-plus advantage in voter registration over Democrats. Scholten lost to Rep. Steve King by less than 3 percentage points in 2018.  He faces State Sen. Randy Feenstra, who won the GOP primary, this year.

Feenstra is scheduled to participate in the Partnership’s forum Oct. 29.