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UPDATE: Bud Light touches nerve with corn syrup Super Bowl ads

NEW YORK — Bud Light attacked rival brands in its Super Bowl ads, but it was the corn industry that felt stung.

The spots trolled rival brands that use corn syrup. One showed a medieval caravan schlepping a huge barrel of corn syrup to castles owned by Miller and Coors.

The National Corn Growers Association rebuked the brand for boasting that Bud Light does not use the ingredient.

The association, which says it represents 40,000 corn farmers nationwide, tweeted that America’s corn farmers were “disappointed” in Bud Light, and thanked Miller Lite and Coors Light for “supporting our industry.”

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, responded it “fully supports corn growers and will continue to invest in the corn industry.”

“Bud Light’s Super Bowl commercials are only meant to point out a key difference in Bud Light from some other light beers,” the company said in a statement. “This effort is to provide consumers transparency and elevate the beer category.”

MillerCoors also hit back at Bud Light with a tweet clarifying that none of its products use high-fructose corn syrup. It claimed many Anheuser-Busch products do.

In a statement Monday from Iowa Corn, Mark Recker said, “As a family farmer, I am disappointed that Bud Light chose to denigrate corn in their Super Bowl ad as part of a marketing scheme to attack their competition.

“I am proud of the generations of farmers that grow corn that is used in over 4,000 everyday products from corn fed beef to ethanol to bourbon to makeup. Iowa is the number one corn producing state, and the top crop grown in our country. This attack especially hits home at a time when farmers are hurting due to challenging economic conditions. Corn is a homegrown renewable crop that feeds and fuels my family and yours.

“Please leave us out of the beer wars. Support your local corn farmers by standing with us and choosing products that include corn.”


Govt-and-politics
Iowa to pay $4M to victims of sex harassment by ex-director

DES MOINES — The state of Iowa agreed Monday to pay $4.15 million in settlements with two executive branch employees who were sexually harassed for years by an agency director who was a longtime friend of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The payments will go to the Iowa Finance Authority’s former business development director, Beth Mahaffey, and its communications director, Ashley Jared. Both complained last year to the governor’s office about the hostile work environment they endured under Iowa Finance Authority executive director Dave Jamison, who was then fired by Reynolds.

The state appeal board voted 2-1 to approve the settlements after tabling a proposal by State Auditor Rob Sand to seek restitution from Jamison for the cost.

Both women had filed legal complaints with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, but had not yet filed lawsuits. Settling the cases this early — and for this much money — is unusual for the state. But the move avoids potentially years of proceedings during which Jamison’s conduct and his association with the governor would have been examined, along with the risk jurors could eventually return larger verdicts.

The women said Jamison frequently boasted of his close relationship with the governor and they didn’t complain sooner because they believed he would face no consequences. They came forward after they were disturbed by an incident in which Jamison allegedly showed one a pornographic video during a car ride, looked at his crotch and said, “can you tell when I am excited?” They said they were afraid of the former Marine.

The state will pay $2.35 million in cash and annuities to Mahaffey, 53, who left state employment last year after complaining about Jamison. Another $1.8 million will go to Jared, 35, who continues to work at the agency. The money will come from the state’s general budget, but Reynolds has asked the authority to consider reimbursing the state for the cost.

Sand, who took office last month, said taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for Jamison’s misconduct and he should be required to pay. But Solicitor General Jeff Thompson told the panel it’s unclear whether the state has the authority to seek restitution from Jamison and that question should be considered later.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald and Department of Management Director David Roederer voted to approve the deals, saying they trusted advice from the attorney general’s office to settle them now. Fitzgerald said Jamison’s conduct was so outrageous the cases could have ultimately cost the state tens of millions of dollars.

“Having this employee heading up one of our departments is disgusting,” said Fitzgerald, who questioned why no criminal charges were filed against Jamison.

Jamison, who has remained silent publicly since the scandal broke, didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Reynolds fired Jamison one day after the women contacted her office in March 2018. The governor initially refused to share details of Jamison’s conduct, saying the women didn’t wish to be identified. But she later released a complaint that described constant sexual talk and improper behavior by Jamison in the workplace, during travel and social outings.

In statements issued by their lawyers, both women praised Reynolds for firing Jamison and keeping their complaints confidential.

Mahaffey said she went to work for the agency to serve Iowans but ran into an “increasingly toxic and harmful” environment.

“I came forward in desperation when I could no longer tolerate the dehumanization of myself and others. This was a very difficult decision due to the constantly looming threat of retaliation,” she said.

Jared said coming forward “took every ounce of courage and strength I had” but she did so to prevent others from being harassed.

An independent investigation concluded Jamison had subjected the women — identified as Witness 1 and 2 — to “aggressive and harassing treatment.” He frequently talked in detail about his sex life, asked questions about theirs, and made remarks about their bodies, the report found. In the most egregious incident, Jamison allegedly grabbed one of the women’s breasts as part of a “joke” during a work outing at a bar. Jamison disputed their allegations, but the report found his denials weren’t credible.

Reynolds has described Jamison as a longtime professional and family friend. She said she knew he had a reputation as a heavy-drinking partier but she never witnessed or was aware of any improper sexual harassment.

The two met when they were county officials in the 1990s and later became leaders of the association representing county treasurers. They ran on the statewide GOP ticket in the 2010 election, when Reynolds was elected lieutenant governor and Jamison lost his race for state treasurer. Then-Gov. Terry Branstad appointed him in 2011 to lead the authority, which promotes affordable housing and runs other programs.

Jared and Mahaffey received unusually large salary increases from Jamison that weren’t justified or necessary, according to an audit released last month. Jared’s salary increased by 210 percent during her 10 years with the agency to $115,000, while Mahaffey’s went up 44 percent in six years to $87,000.

“Essentially he was using taxpayer money to keep them quiet which is why I believe the taxpayers ought to be going after Dave Jamison,” Sand said.


Govt-and-politics
Waterloo reverses course on fireworks use

WATERLOO — The city is moving forward with plans to allow residents to shoot off fireworks legally around the Fourth of July.

Waterloo City Council members voted 4-3 Monday to approve the first reading of an ordinance lifting the current ban and allowing the use of consumer fireworks in the city limits on July 3-5.

The ordinance, which must pass three times to be adopted, is expected to return for the second consideration next week.

Councilmen Pat Morrissey, Ray Feuss, Jerome Amos Jr. and Steve Schmitt voted in favor of the ordinance.

“The five days didn’t work (in 2017) and the ban didn’t work (last year),” Morrissey said. “I see this as a compromise.”

Amos supported the measure after his amendment to limit fireworks to July 4 failed to get support.

“My constituents, there are those that don’t want fireworks and there are those that do want fireworks,” he said. “I represent all of those individuals, not just those who don’t want them.”

Councilwoman Margaret Klein joined Sharon Juon and Bruce Jacobs in voting to keep the current ban in place.

“We deserve a safe, sound and pleasurable environment for everybody,” said Klein, who believes the majority of her constituents in Ward 1 support the ban.

Several residents spoke for and against allowing fireworks.

Matt Reisetter, co-owner of Crossroads Fireworks, said he believed three days was a good compromise.

“There are many law-abiding citizens who want to do this legally and whose neighbors get together and enjoy it, put on a show and have a good time together,” he said.

“When you give citizens who want to do it legally a time to do it legally they’ll abide by that,” he added. “Then (law enforcement officers) are free to deal with the problem cases.”

But resident Jeri Thornsberry said she was “dumbfounded” by the council’s logic.

“So because some people in Waterloo do not respect the law this council considers a change to the ordinance,” she said. “What message are we sending to those of us citizens who are law abiding?”

Resident Myke Goings, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder exacerbated by the noise of fireworks, also spoke in favor of the ban or at least shortening the use to a single day and not allowing aerial rockets which can be seen at organized fireworks shows.

“Those shows should be enough for people to get their display fireworks fix,” he said. “Beyond that they just like to blow stuff up.”

The ordinance would allow fireworks to be shot off from noon to 11 p.m. July 4 and from noon to 10 p.m. on both July 3 and July 5 each year. State law allows a 38-day window in June and July and another winter period in December through the New Year’s Eve celebration.

Council members also voted 6-1 to approve the first reading of a zoning ordinance putting more restrictions on where fireworks can be sold in Waterloo.


Govt-and-politics
Bill would allow consumer fireworks statewide July 4

DES MOINES — Home fireworks displays would be legal on the Fourth of July — regardless of how city and county governments feel about it — under legislation being considered at the Iowa Capitol.

A bill introduced by Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, would require cities and counties to allow residents to display fireworks July 4 until midnight.

The state’s new fireworks law, which was passed in 2017 and made home fireworks displays legal for the first time since 1938, currently gives cities and counties the flexibility to restrict or even ban home fireworks displays.

Chapman’s bill would remove that option for July 4 only, and also would restrict local government’s ability to use zoning laws to dictate where fireworks are sold.

Chapman said his proposal seeks to provide some clarity, even for just one day, because cities have enacted myriad policies regarding when — or if — residents can conduct home fireworks displays.

“I believe most Iowans want to follow the law,” Chapman said. “There’s a lot of confusion out there as to when people can shoot off fireworks.”

Chapman’s proposal has received push back from local governments, who say they negotiated for that flexibility when the 2017 state law was written, and they know what policy is best for their communities.

Some of Iowa’s largest cities have enacted strict restrictions or outright bans on home fireworks displays. Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Mason City have enacted bans — although the Waterloo council is considering allowing home displays from July 3 through July 5. Sioux City and Marion, for example, allow home fireworks displays only in small windows of time around July 4.

Local government officials across the state and the organizations that represent them oppose to the legislative proposal.

“From our perspective, there are two primary reasons why we need the control over fireworks: safety and to meet the needs of our constituents,” said Robert Palmer, director of government affairs for the Iowa League of Cities.

Lucas Beenken, public policy specialist for the Iowa State Association of Counties, said it is a matter of local control.

“We believe the local governments know their jurisdictions and how to regulate them better than a blanket policy from the state,” Beenken said.

The same goes, local leaders said, for their ability to restrict where fireworks are sold.

Chapman’s proposal also would restrict that. He said when the 2017 law was written, legislators intended for cities to be able to regulate fireworks displays but not their sale. That was to be the state fire marshal’s purview, Chapman said.

“An overwhelming majority of cities have been great to work with. Retailers have had no problems,” Chapman said. “A couple of communities, unfortunately, have been litigated, in fact, because of additional fees, inspections, building code requirements, using zoning to zone them into industrial.”