EXPOSED: State Senator obstructs Iowans’ first amendment rights for personal gain

Iowa CCI Action and Food & Water Action file ethics complaint against Senator Rozenboom for conflict of interest in the recent ag-gag legislation

Des Moines, IA — Today, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund (Iowa CCI Action) and Food & Water Action (FWA) filed an ethics complaint against Senator Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa) after the Senator abused his authority by sponsoring and strengthening support for an amendment to add ag-gag provisions to Senate File 2413, a COVID-19 response bill. The organizations’ virtual press conference can be found here.

On June 5, in the midst of a global pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence, the Iowa Senate passed legislation, Senate File 2413, designed to address impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic but containing a buried provision that makes trespassing on a “food operation,” such as a factory farm, an aggravated misdemeanor. This will stifle the first amendment rights of Iowa residents and the rights of consumers to know how their food is produced, all while protecting corporate agriculture and the factory farm industry.

“This bill was pushed through by Senator Ken Rozenboom who, earlier this year, came under fire when activists revealed photo and video evidence of appalling conditions and animal abuse in his own factory farm,” said Barb Kalbach, 4th generation family farmer and Iowa CCI member from Adair County. “This is clearly an attempt by Senator Rozenboom to not only protect his own factory farm operation and the operations of others like him, but also an act of retaliation in response to the undercover investigation. This is a clear conflict of interest. Iowans have a right to know what is going on inside the operations that produce their food.”

Previous ag-gag bills in Iowa were passed in 2012 and 2019. The 2012 law was challenged in court and was ruled unconstitutional. The 2019 ag-gag law is currently being challenged in court and has been barred from being enforced. These bills resulted in significant public outcry from a variety of stakeholders including animal rights advocates, media, and civil rights organizations.

“Senator Rozenboom is clearly using his position to benefit his own business interests, but he’s also doing it with our tax dollars,“ said Emma Schmit, a Factory Farm Organizer with Food & Water Action. “The State has already wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending these unconstitutional ag-gag laws. This latest iteration is no different. Rozenboom has been a long-time proponent of a ‘sustainable budget’ for the State of Iowa, yet the Senator’s actions prove that it is nothing more than hot air. Rozenboom was elected to represent the people, not his own self-interests. It’s time the Senate Ethics Committee takes action against this clear abuse of position and power.”

“The Senate Ethics Committee must hold Senator Rozenboom accountable for his blatant abuse of power. Otherwise, it is setting a precedent that as long as one has enough power and influence, they are untouchable. This is a precedent that cannot be allowed. That is why we are asking the Senate Ethics Committee to issue an admonishment to Rozenboom, for his actions and conflict of interest,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa CCI Action.

To view recording of press conference, click here.

To view notarized ethics complaint, click here.

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