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Ethics complaint filed against Scott County lawmaker Ross Paustian
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Ethics complaint filed against Scott County lawmaker Ross Paustian

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A Des Moines-based community action group has filed an ethics complaint against a Scott County lawmaker.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund argues that Republican Iowa State Rep. Ross Paustian, a Walcott farmer, used his position as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee to block legislation that would have sought to strengthen rules overseeing livestock confinement operations while at the same time pushing support for legislation that protects factory farms, including the so-called "Ag Gag" law.

The ethics complaint alleges that because of Paustian's personal and economic interest in industrial agriculture as the owner of five factory farms and a hog producer, he "has compromised the integrity of the state legislature."

Paustian, a fifth-generation crop and livestock farmer, recently told the Quad-City Times that he is running for reelection partly to continue to use his position to block proposed moratoriums on large livestock confinements in Iowa.

"A livestock facility is a good way for a young farmer to get started in the business," Paustian told the Times last month. "And to take that option away from them isn’t going to help agriculture in any way."

He could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Paustian faces first-time candidate and Democratic challenger Jennifer Kakert, of Blue Grass, for the Iowa House District 92 seat. The district represents a section of Scott County that includes the rural, western part of the county, along with Eldridge and parts of north and west Davenport.

Environmentalists have repeatedly pushed state lawmakers to strengthen rules overseeing livestock confinement operations. The groups argue that manure from confinements used to fertilizer farm fields contribute to high levels of nitrates that add to toxic algal blooms in Iowa lakes and rivers, and threaten human health and drinking water.

"When elected officials use their positions of power to block bills from even being discussed by a subcommittee, they are single-handedly compromising the democratic process," Edith Haenel, a CCI member from Worth County, said in a news release. "Paustian's perception of anti-livestock bills is intrinsically linked to both his personal and economic interest as a factory farmer. We want a more just agriculture system, Paustian wants to maintain the status quo."

Adam Mason, state policy and organizing director at CCI Action, in a statement, said Paustian's history at the Statehouse shows he's not operating in good faith.

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