Iowa politics: Lawmakers, officials scurry to comply with ban on self-promotion

Which topics dominated this year’s legislative session? Here are some of the top issues that defined a tumultuous season at the Iowa Capitol. Michael Zamora,

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Michael Fitzgerald, Iowa’s longtime state treasurer, in some ways has become synonymous with college savings and helping people find unclaimed property.

The Democrat’s name and smiling face have been highlighted in decades of promotional material — brochures, newspaper op-eds, television ads — that get the word out about two popular state programs he helped create. Large booths at the annual Iowa State Fair also include Fitzgerald’s image and the title he’s held for more than 30 years.

That could all change this year, after the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature quietly approved a ban on taxpayer-funded advertisements if they have a whiff of self-promotion for an elected official. The law goes into effect Sunday.

Fitzgerald, whose face or name is on several brochures at the entrance to his Capitol office, is convinced the law was directed at him. An outspoken critic of some GOP state policies, he noted the ban was tucked into a large unrelated budget bill and passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.

“It was absolutely politically driven,” he said.

But now the law could have unintended consequences. It may force leading Republicans such as Gov. Kim Reynolds to tone down promotional material, too. And it has set off a scramble to scrub photos of elected officials from booths at the state fair, set for August.

The law prohibits statewide officials and lawmakers from using taxpayer dollars to promote their written name, likeness or voice through various platforms like the internet, newspapers, television and radio. An official, who instead would need to tap campaign funds, may have to repay the state or…

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