Finkenauer tempest: Let’s move on

Some Iowans recently got after Abby Finkenauer, the freshman state representative from Dubuque, for taking a job last fall with Make It Work, a nonprofit group advocating for such issues as paid family leave and affordable child care. She recently joined fellow Democrats in advocating for closure of the wage gap between men and women in similar jobs.

A group called Priorities for Iowa – it says it is nonpartisan – charged that Finkenauer is “blurring the line between the taxpayers she represents and the special interest group that employs her.” Sorry, but we find it hard to work up any outrage over this one.

In Iowa, state legislator is a part-time gig, and the annual salary of $25,000 reflects that. With the pay being what it is, lawmakers either need to hold other jobs or be retired (as so many are).

Certainly, legislators should disclose and avoid acting on matters where bona fide conflicts of interest exist. But advocacy on the broad areas of importance to Finkenauer’s employer are no greater a concern than the current or former occupations of her colleagues.

Will Priorities for Iowa take after legislators who are also farmers and act on measures involving agriculture? Or how about legislators who are teachers and vote on such matters as education funding or school calendars?

So, as long as her employment status is disclosed and she does not act in a manner to specifically enrich her employer, Finkenauer’s other job is not a great concern.

What is of some concern, however, is her response to this tempest. She did fail to follow the House Code of Ethics and file proper and timely notice after she joined Make It Work. She was in apparent violation of the ethics code – largely a paperwork issue, since her employment change was publicly disclosed last fall – but her self-characterization as a victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy is a bit over the top.

It’s politics. One side says and does things to try to make people on the other side look bad. It happens all the time.

Finkenauer should have apologized for missing the filing deadline, reiterated her denial of a conflict of interest, and left it to Priorities for Iowa to decide whether to try to make more of this situation than is actually there.

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Feb. 12, 2016