Columbia University Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez speaks in the Shambaugh Auditorium in the Main Library on Tuesday, March, 7, 2017. Hertel-Fernandez spoke about unions and advocacy groups in Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)
Columbia University Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez speaks in the Shambaugh Auditorium in the Main Library on Tuesday, March, 7, 2017. Hertel-Fernandez spoke about unions and advocacy groups in Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Lecture notes conservative push

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Gina Jochimsen| gina-jochimsen@uiowa.edu

Molly Hunter| molly-hunter@uiowa.edu

Conservative organizations have played a large part in creating and passing laws regarding unions, voter IDs, and campus carry of firearms in Iowa.

On March 7, in a lecture in the Main Library Schambaugh Auditorium, Columbia University Assistant Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernadez discussed how conservative interests have shaped the nation and Iowa.

The talk covered state legislatures and conservative activists pushing legislation that cut union and voting rights, reduced taxes on the wealthy, and slashed social programs.

Columbia University Assistant Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez speaks in the Shambaugh Auditorium on March 7. Hertel-Fernandez discussed unions and advocacy groups in Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Columbia University Assistant Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez speaks in the Shambaugh Auditorium on March 7. Hertel-Fernandez discussed unions and advocacy groups in Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Hertel-Ferdnandez is an assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia. He has worked at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., with a focus on health reform and Social Security.

He said conservative interest groups have aided a spike in the number of GOP-controlled state legislatures, which has not happened since 1950.

Hertel-Ferdnandez said lobbyist groups work hard to get GOP lawmakers elected, and once elections are over, they turn push their policy agenda very strongly.

The troika is, he said, composed of the organizations Americans for Prosperity, State Policy Network, and American Legislative Council. Their focus is on weakening economic regulations and preventing government expansion.

“What’s happening here in Iowa is a piece of what’s happening in other states …” he said. “The question is how lawmakers are arriving at the same idea at the same time.”

He also emphasized that these organizations are national in scope but have a local and state presence.

Hertel-Fernandez said that there are counter groups on the left side of the aisle, but they are less unified.

“Had [Democrats] continued to cultivate the support they once had, they could win every election from the school board to the White House in the country; they’ve kind of deliberately not done that,” said Nicholas Johnson, a University of Iowa law adjunct lecturer.

Hertel-Fernandez said GOP cross-state networks have consolidated while groups on the left have fragmented, experiencing intense competition over funding and resources.

Columbia University Assistant Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez speaks in the Shambaugh Auditorium on March 7. Hertel-Fernandez warned about right-wing networks in Iowa and the nation. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Columbia University Professor Alexander Hertel-Fernandez speaks in the Shambaugh Auditorium March 7. Hertel-Fernandez warned about right-wing networks in Iowa and the nation. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Hertel-Fernandez pointed to the dedication of GOP networks as the reason for their success in getting their policies passed, citing Iowa’s recently passed public-employee collective-bargaining bill as an example.

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gave a pep talk to legislators right before it passed,” he said

In response to accusations made by Democrats that the collective-bargaining law was fast-tracked through the Legislature, Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said the law went through every single procedure that other bills do.

“It consumed close to three weeks of a 100-day session,” he said.

Holt was not directly involved in the crafting of the collective-bargaining law, but he said lawmakers worked closely with Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency over many months to create the bill before it was introduced.

However, Hertel-Fernandez said GOP groups lobby to get such legislation passed, and GOP legislators use model bill language from those groups.

“The troika fingerprint is all over this for sure,” he said.