Iowa GOP accepts campaign fund of disgraced ex-Senate leader

IOWA CITY (AP) — The abrupt downfall of Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix quickly turned into a cash windfall for the Republican Party of Iowa.
The party’s central committee accepted a $522,000 contribution from Dix’s campaign on March 26, two weeks after the Shell Rock farmer quit the Legislature in disgrace, according to campaign finance disclosures filed this week.
Dix resigned hours after the Iowa Starting Line, a Democratic-leaning news site, published video of the married lawmaker and father kissing a female lobbyist in a Des Moines tavern. Republican leaders, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, said they were disappointed in Dix’s unprofessional behavior and cozy relationship with someone who was lobbying to save millions in state payments to municipalities.
Dix had faced criticism and some calls to step down last year after the state paid a $1.75 million legal settlement to former Senate GOP communications director Kirsten Anderson, who was fired hours after complaining about a culture of workplace sexual harassment. A jury ruled last year that Senate Republican Caucus leaders violated Iowa laws preventing workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation and awarded Anderson $2.2 million. Dix claimed that Anderson was fired for poor work performance.
Dix had $550,000 in his campaign, Friends for Dix, when he resigned from office on March 12. Under Iowa law, he could have given the money to political and charitable groups, returned it to donors or sent it to the state general fund.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen and other Democrats have previously called on Republican leaders to use their campaign money to reimburse the state for Anderson’s settlement. Anderson said Tuesday she’s not surprised that the Republican Party accepted Dix’s money but that he should have considered using it to reimburse taxpayers “due to his mismanagement of my situation.”
“I think someone who goes around speaking about fiscal responsibility should have thought about that particular piece of the puzzle,” she said.
Dix and his campaign treasurer didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. Republican Party spokesman Jesse Dougherty defended the decision to take the money, saying it was “raised to help elect and defend a Republican majority this fall.”
Dix’s contribution amounted to nearly half the $1.2 million that the Republican Party of Iowa reported raising since Jan. 1. The party is seeking to defend its majorities in both chambers of the Statehouse and help Reynolds win a full four-year term in November.