Tag Archives: iowa

Study shows 2 dangerous chemicals released at Iowa plant

A federally mandated study has concluded that Pella Corp. inadvertently released two dangerous chemicals into the ground at its plant in Pella, Iowa.

The study said pentachlorophenol and dioxin have reached the groundwater.

Only those two chemicals were found at higher than acceptable levels, according to the Des Moines Register.

Pella officials said the contaminants do not threaten the city’s drinking water, which comes from the Des Moines River and the Jordan aquifer.

“There’s very limited exposure to human health for this,” Pella engineering manager Jim Nieboer said. “And really, it’s limited to people who work in our buildings and grounds crew who may be digging in our soil periodically planting flowers and tulips.”

Pella used pentachlorophenol to treat wood, and was stored in above-ground tanks and drums. Although the chemical was widely barred in the 1980s, it is still used as a preservative for telephone poles and railroad ties. Dioxins, a byproduct of pentachlorophenol manufacturing, are described by the World Health Organization as “highly toxic.”

The study was a result of a 2010 settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, which required the company to test for 30 different possible sources of contamination. Nieboer said Pella will wait for guidance from the EPA on whether Pella must remove the chemicals from the ground.

“It’s primarily underneath our manufacturing buildings,” Nieboer said. “There are ways we can intercept and remove groundwater. Given the clay soils in Iowa, it could be a very long-term process of removal and treatment.”

Pella spokeswoman Heidi Farmer said the company does not know of any employees who became ill from the soil, but still continue to monitor and test the facility to ensure the health and safety of Pella’s team members.

Hispanic woman fired for reporting harassment by pro-Trump co-workers

A Hispanic woman says her white co-workers at an Iowa claims office used images of Donald Trump to racially harass her for months after they learned she was angered by his description of Mexican immigrants as rapists, according to a civil rights lawsuit she filed against her company.

Alexandra Avila’s co-workers at Sedgwick Claims Management Services — where they administered benefits for Wal-Mart employees — began calling her an “illegal immigrant” even though she’s a natural-born U.S. citizen, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Iowa district court. The suit claims her former co-workers placed a picture of an angry-looking Trump as Avila’s computer’s screensaver, signed her up to volunteer for his campaign and sent her racist memes, including one that read: “How’s Mr. Donald Trump going to deport all these illegals? Juan by Juan.”

The Republican presidential candidate’s promise to build a border wall to keep out Mexican immigrants has for months contributed to racial tensions nationwide. “Build a wall” chants have been used by high school students to taunt Latino opponents at sporting events in multiple states, including Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana. At Kent State University, Latinos marching in the Homecoming parade this month said they were taunted with the same chant.

Avila, a 32-year-old mother of one who worked at Sedgwick for three years, claims she faced similar heckling at her white-collar workplace in Coralville, Iowa, from the beginning of Trump’s campaign in June 2015 until after she was fired five months later.

“It’s been a weird political season where one candidate is taking public stances on things that, if the same words were said in the workplace, might constitute violations of our civil rights laws,” said Avila’s attorney, Paige Fiedler. “His candidacy has emboldened some people to feel like that doesn’t violate social norms anymore.”

Lesley Gudehus, spokeswoman for Memphis, Tennessee-based Sedgwick, declined comment on the lawsuit.

Avila, born in California to Mexican parents, told colleagues she was upset with Trump’s 2015 campaign launch when he said of Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Soon after, the lawsuit claims, colleagues removed the photo Avila had of her young daughter as her computer screensaver and replaced it with a picture of Trump yelling and pointing his finger. When Avila removed the photo, they kept switching it back to Trump, the suit alleges.

An email arrived from the Trump campaign last fall thanking her for the support and asking how she wanted to help, according to the suit. Avila also claims her colleagues sent offensive memes, including one showing a brown-skinned man that read: “Found Jesus — he stabbed me twice.”

When her department was voting on a potluck menu, one co-worker said Avila was ineligible because she was an “illegal immigrant,” drawing laughter from Avila’s boss, the lawsuit claims. Avila contends that after she complained about the harassment, the company accused her of falsifying timecards by claiming she worked minutes more time than she actually did.

Avila was fired last November and escorted out, with Sedgwick saying it would send her personal property later. When her belongings arrived from FedEx, Avila says they contained a handwritten note that called her “La Trumpa” and added: “Illegal immigrants can’t vote or work. Good luck finding a job.”

“Getting that box in the mail was a horrific experience,” Fiedler says.

After her firing, a co-worker sent her an invitation to a Trump rally on Facebook, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, which names Sedgwick and two supervisors, alleges Avila suffered discrimination based on national origin and that the company failed to pay wages she earned.

 

Under forfeiture law, Iowa seizes millions from citizens

An analysis of data shows that under Iowa’s forfeiture, private property is seized from at least 1,000 people a year without proof the property was acquired as a result of a crime or was being used to help people commit crimes.

The seizures of cash, vehicles and other private property have increased markedly since the 1980s, when state and local governments reported fewer than two dozen such cases annually. The civil forfeiture laws have let helped the agencies pump millions of dollars into their budgets, mostly in uncontested cases, according to The Des Moines Register’s analysis of data obtained from the agencies (http://dmreg.co/2cT51sK ). In many instances, the newspaper said, no criminal charges were filed against the person whose property was seized.

Some lawmakers and social justice groups say the agency practices have strayed beyond the original intent of Iowa’s forfeiture laws.

In 1984 the U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act as a weapon to be used against drug traffickers. And in 1986, a change in federal law expanded civil forfeiture to include money-laundering activities and virtually any criminal or regulatory violation.

States soon adopted their own versions.

Polk County has added $18 million in seized cash and the proceeds from nearly 1,500 confiscated vehicles to the budgets of local and state law enforcement agencies since 1985, the analysis shows.

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said the forfeiture totals are the combined result of higher population and good law enforcement work.

“A lot of this revolves around the drug trade, and they’re making money off of people’s addictions and whatever other circumstances they have that leads them into using drugs. They shouldn’t profit from that,” Sarcone said.

A state Senate bill that would have allowed forfeitures only in cases resulting in criminal convictions failed to make it through the legislative process this year. Sen. Charles Schneider vowed to resurrect it next year.

“My main concern is that assets can be forfeited to the state without a person even being charged with a crime, and I think that runs afoul of the Constitution,” Schneider told the Register.

 

 

Groups using Pokemon Go to register voters

A political group in swing-state Ohio is using the game Pokemon Go for a purpose beyond catching cute Pikachu: registering voters.

NextGen Climate Ohio, a group drawing attention to climate change, says the rollout — coming days before the two political conventions get underway — is just one of the creative ways it’s trying to engage millennial voters.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is to really meet them where they are,” said state director Joanne Pickrell. “This is where they seem to be. It’s a very popular game.”

The Democrat-backed NextGen is dropping “lures,” which draw the cartoon monsters hunted by “Pokemon Go” players, at game locations called Pokestops in parks and on campuses in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo, Pickrell said. Organizers will be on site at the locations to talk to players about the importance of voting and how to get registered.

Planned Ohio locations include the University of Toledo on Friday and, on Saturday, parks in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus and Mirror Lake on the main campus of Ohio State University. The group’s chapters in Iowa, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois are also using a similar tactic to register voters. In New Hampshire, it’s being used to secure commitments to vote in the fall.

Pickrell said outreach to youth voters in Ohio also includes being at music festivals, street fairs and college orientations.

Catching Pokemon Thursday at Columbus’ Goodale Park, one of NextGen’s planned outreach sites, players of the game were positive about the idea.

“Any way to spread the good teachings of knowing when to vote, how to vote, knowing to vote, to register, that your vote matters — any way you can get that, whether it’s through ‘Pokemon Go’ or anything else that’s popular at the time, if it can help the younger generation know what to prepare for it, then I’m all for it,” said Jordan Grubb, 23.

Grubb’s companion at the park, 20-year-old Haley Hamilton, agreed: “Voting’s important. You need to get younger people’s attention, because a lot of younger kids don’t take it seriously.”

Chris Thomas, 29, a doctoral student in education policy, said he loves the social aspect of the game but approaches “lures” with a note of caution.

“Using that to bring people to you is a really cool idea for registering people to vote, but I did find a story about people using it to lure people for purposes of robbing them, so there are pros and cons of that,” he said.

Thomas said bumping into other “Pokemon Go” players while looking down at your phone to play the game has been a pleasant surprise of the game experience. Instead of being stereotypical detached smartphone users, players begin to talk and even work together.

“We’re alone, together,” he said. That’s not unlike voters.

Frac sand mine seeks to expand on Iowa-Wisconsin border

A controversial frac sand mining company that recently opened a site in Wisconsin is facing opposition to plans for a sevenfold expansion of its underground mine in Clayton County, Iowa.

Pattison Sand Co. has requested rezoning of 746 acres of land from agricultural to heavy industrial for eventual expansion of its underground mine from its current size of about 100 acres. The site, which includes surface mining on some of its 1,600 acres, lies along the Mississippi River directly across from Bagley, Wisconsin. Many of its roughly 150 employees live in southwestern Wisconsin.

Since Pattison Sand’s Clayton County site began operations in 2005, it has racked up more workplace violations than any other industrial sand mine in the United States, according to data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) analyzed by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Among the violations is a 2008 accident in which a front-end loader with a defective rear-view mirror backed over a worker, killing her.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy, a professor of occupational and environmental health in the University of Iowa engineering college, told members of a county committee studying expansion on April 28 in Elkader, Iowa, that it would be wise to review the mine’s record and reputation when considering the proposal.

“There are good apples and there are bad apples in every industry, from swine rearing to sand mining,” O’Shaughnessy told the committee before a crowd of more than 60 people. “Is this someone who has flagrant violations constantly, or is this someone who’s typically got a good sense of safety for their workers, environmental consciousness, and they want to be a good neighbor?”

Nevertheless, O’Shaughnessy told members of the Mine Reserve Expansion Study Committee that residents living around the proposed expansion face a low risk of inhaling airborne silica particles from the mine. Inhaling silica can cause silicosis, an irreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease that can lead to cancer and tuberculosis.

The mine produces sand for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting water, fine-grained sand and chemicals at high pressure to break apart underground rock and release trapped oil and natural gas.

History of violations

According to the Center’s analysis, between April 2005 and January of this year, Pattison Sand’s site in Clayton County had 934 MSHA violations for which the company paid $279,000 in fines. Wedron Silica Co. in Illinois — the industrial sand mine with the second most violations in that time period — received 501 violations.

According to the data, little has changed since a 2013 Wall Street Journal analysis found that mining safety officials had cited Pattison Sand more than any other sand or gravel mine in the country. Among the violations identified by the Center, 235 were racked up since January 2013.

In addition, the Center found that 55 Pattison Sand employees have filed workers’ compensation claims for injuries sustained at the Iowa location between 2005 and January of this year. Claims include fractures, dislocations, sprains, hernias and heat prostration. Two of the claims were filed for respiratory problems.

In an interview, Christopher Hensler, district manager for MSHA’s north central district, said the regulatory agency’s inspectors have spent a lot of time at Pattison Sand’s Iowa site, but the sheer number of violations does not necessarily indicate a larger problem.

“The bulk of their violations are very simple electrical violations and defects of equipment that affect safety,” he said.

One 2008 violation involving defects of equipment, however, resulted in a fatality. In that incident, a front-end loader backed up, striking and killing a worker. MSHA’s investigation report found the accident was caused in part by the equipment’s defective rear-view mirror and the lack of visible reflective material on the employee. Pattison Sand was fined $70,000 for that violation.

A 2014 fire and multiple roof collapses in 2011 also generated violations that resulted in temporary shutdowns. The collapses and an ensuing legal battle shuttered the underground portion of the mine for several months in 2011 and 2012.

Other infractions at Pattison Sand’s Iowa site include exposing workers to harmful airborne contaminants, failing to have protective equipment and clothing, and neglecting to provide at least two escapeways to the surface in the mine.

Andy Garcia-Rivera, a former industrial hygiene compliance officer for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said although mines do tend to have many violations, the number of infractions Pattison Sand’s Iowa location has amassed is “unusual.”

“It tells me that there’s something wrong,” said Garcia-Rivera, who also directed environmental, health and safety compliance for the University Wisconsin-Madison campus. “Sometimes employers do take shortcuts.”

Official defends company record

Tim Adkins, who joined Pattison Sand 14 months ago as its health and safety director, said after the April 28 meeting that claiming Pattison Sand’s record is the worst in the industry is a “terrible, terrible, misconception” and an “out-of-context statement to make.” He attributed some of the past violations to lack of experience by the Pattison family, who used to store and ship grain from the underground caverns that are now mined.

“When they (Pattison Sand) went into the mining industry, they didn’t know about the mining industry. They’d never dealt with MSHA. They didn’t know MSHA regulations,” said Adkins, who has over 40 years of experience as a health and safety professional, including over 35 years in mining.

Adkins added that underground mines such as Pattison Sand’s generate more violations because they are inspected twice as often as surface mines, four times a year versus two.

“Pattison Sand is a good player, good operator,” Adkins said. “They care about their employees, they take extra steps to go above and beyond MSHA requirements, MSHA standards.”

But even when compared to other similar underground mines, Pattison’s track record is not stellar. In 2010, 2011 and 2014, the company’s Iowa mine had above-average rates among underground metal and nonmetal mines of violations deemed “significant and substantial” by MSHA. Data prior to 2010 were not available.

Adkins said Pattison Sand works very closely with MSHA to ensure compliance. That was not always the case.

In 2011, Pattison Sand sued the agency after it shut down the majority of the underground mine following multiple roof collapses, including one in which at least 30 tons of rock fell onto an excavator; the miner operating it was unhurt. The lawsuit and appeals kept the underground part of the mine closed for several months.

Besides Pattison’s Iowa mine, MSHA lists only two other underground industrial sand mines in the country. Both are located in Pierce County, Wisconsin, and operated by the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Co. Since 2005, one of the mines has received 279 violations — a fraction of the number racked up by Pattison. The other, operating only since 2008, has received 127 violations.

Opponents continue to fight

At the April 28 meeting in Elkader, 37 people submitted comments raising questions about Pattison Sand’s record of MSHA violations, burning at the company’s Iowa site, workers’ respiratory problems, conflicting results of air quality studies and dust.

Kathy Kachel, who attended the meeting, blames Pattison Sand’s Iowa mine for the white sand she dusts inside her house. She lives in Bagley and can see the facility from her porch. Kachel would like to see it shut down.

“There is a proliferation of silica (sand) at this point for fracking,” Kachel said. “It’s not healthy for anybody — the environment, the wildlife, my grandchildren.”

In Wisconsin, Pattison Sand operates a surface mine in Bridgeport, about a 30-minute drive northeast of its Iowa site. Four Bridgeport residents and the Crawford Stewardship Project, an environmental group that promotes sustainability and local control of natural resources, tried unsuccessfully to block that mine. Its status is currently listed as “intermittent” based on the number of hours worked at the site.

Since it began operating in August 2013, the Bridgeport mine has received seven violations for which the company paid $824 in fines. Those violations include failing to notify MSHA before starting operations, neglecting to prepare a material safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical the mine uses or produces, failing to provide first aid materials, and failing to provide safe means of access to travelways.

Garcia-Rivera said violations at mines that are not yet fully operational, such as Pattison Sand’s Bridgeport site, are to be expected. MSHA is only required to inspect such intermittent surface mines once a year. The mine expansion committee plans to meet again on Wednesday.

Digital and multimedia director Coburn Dukehart contributed to this report. The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Clinton defends progressive record against Sanders’ attack

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders opened up a new line of attack in the Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3, putting Hillary Clinton on the defensive over her liberal credentials just days after she eked a slim victory in the Iowa caucuses.

Sanders, who has a sizable lead in the upcoming New Hampshire primary, rattled off a list of issues where he says Clinton isn’t in sync with the liberal wing of the party, including trade, Wall Street regulation, climate change, campaign finance and the 2002 authorization of the war in Iraq.

“I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street,” Sanders said, during a candidate forum sponsored by CNN. “That’s just not progressive.”

Clinton moved quickly to defend her record, saying that under Sanders’ criteria President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and even the deceased Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, a champion of liberal causes, would not be considered progressive.

“I know where I stand,” said Clinton. “But I don’t think it helps for the senator to be making those kinds of comparisons because clearly we all share the same hopes and aspirations for our country.”

She also pushed back on charges by Sanders and his allies that she cannot be trusted to regulate Wall Street because of the millions in speaking fees she made from the industry before announcing her presidential bid. An Associated Press analysis of public disclosure forms and records released by her campaign found that Clinton made $9 million from appearances sponsored by banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity firms and real estate businesses.

Clinton said she was still deciding whether to run for president when she accepted the appearances

“I don’t know,” she said, when asked why she was paid such a high speaking fee. “That is what they offered.”

The back-and-forth on progressive credentials was the latest example of tensions between Clinton and Sanders as the race nears the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary. The Democratic rivals are expected to appear at a debate on Thursday night and both camps have quarreled over the timing and locations of three debates planned for later this spring.

Clinton has questioned Sanders’ commitment to gun control and whether his proposal to create a universal health care system might endanger Obama’s signature health care law. Sanders, meanwhile, casts Clinton as an establishment figure and an inconsistent champion of liberal causes such as the environment, trade and campaign finance reform.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire earlier in the day, the former secretary of state called Sanders attacks on her ideology a “low blow,” before listing a series of liberal accomplishments that she described as progressive, including her work on expanding access to children’s health insurance, advocating for women and gay people and pushing for gun control measures.

“We’ve been fighting the progressive fight and getting results for people for years,” Clinton said. “I hope we keep it on the issues. Because if it’s about our records, hey, I’m going to win by a landslide.”

But Clinton’s team clearly sees an opening in Sanders’ comment. On Twitter, Clinton’s top spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri compared it to the moment in 2008 when President Barack Obama said during a debate that Clinton was “likable enough,” which prompted criticism from Clinton supporters.

The attack came from a comment Clinton made at a campaign event in September, when she was describing tax cuts passed under former President George W. Bush and noted that she’s occasionally been called a moderate. “I plead guilty,” she told the crowd in Columbus, Ohio.

Sanders cited her words in a Wednesday evening news conference in Concord, before noting that she has done some “progressive things” like advocating for children.

“This is not a low blow. There’s nothing wrong with people who are moderates. Some of my best friends are moderates,” he said. “All I was doing was repeating what she actually said.”

Sanders’ razor-thin loss in the Iowa caucuses Monday, and his formidable lead in New Hampshire polls, have heightened the possibility that the two remaining Democrats will be involved in a protracted fight for the nomination.

“We are in this until the convention,” Sanders told reporters on Tuesday. He said the narrow Iowa outcome showed his campaign’s ability to take on Clinton’s vast political network and address doubts among voters about his electability.

Clinton acknowledged that she yet to win over broad swaths of the party, particularly younger voters. In Iowa, Sanders won 84 percent of voters under age 30 and 58 percent of those aged 30-44 according to entrance polls.

“I respect the fact that I have work to do,” said Clinton. “They don’t have to be for me, I will be for them.” 

Cruz trumps Trump, Clinton narrowly defeats Sanders in Iowa

Turnout was huge.

But still not enough to put Bernie Sanders over the top. By the narrowest margin, the liberal firebrand lost to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side on Feb. 1. The race was so close, Sanders’ campaign referred to it as a “virtual draw.”

On the GOP side, Iowa voters created a three-person race. Evangelical heavyweight Ted Cruz came in first, followed by billionaire Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Reports show turnout in Iowa was historically large, providing big boosts for both Rubio, considered the “establishment” candidate in the Republican race, and for Sanders, the insurgent candidate in the Democratic race.

“We have taken the first step, but an important step, to winning the nomination,” Rubio told supporters in Des Moines.

“Nine months ago we had no political organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the country,” Sanders said.

“It looks like we’ll have about half of the Iowa delegates,” he added.

The night ended Martin O’Malley’s campaign for the White House. Also Mike Huckabee’s bid.

And even before the final tallies were in on caucus night, the focus had turned to New Hampshire, where the first-in-the-nation primary is set for Feb. 9. There, polls show Sanders, a U.S. senator from neighboring Vermont, up by 20 points and Trump also holding a commanding lead.

New Hampshire isn’t favorable territory for Cruz, whose religious conservatism appealed to Iowa Republicans. New Hampshire’s GOP voters tend to favor more mainstream, boosting Rubio’s odds of a strong finish, or lean “live free or die” Libertarian, making Trump the favorite.

Thanking supporters at a rally in Iowa, Trump displayed a rare hint of modesty as he congratulated Cruz and the other Republicans.

“We finished second, and I want to tell you something: I’m just honored,” Trump said. “We’re just so happy with the way everything worked out.”

Although Clinton said she was “breathing a big sigh of relief,” and her campaign said it had won an outright victory, the neck-and-neck contest was a blow, evoking the setback she faced in 2008 after her upset loss to then-Sen. Obama.

After losing in Iowa eight years ago, Clinton went on to New Hampshire and secured a big win. That isn’t likely this time around.

In the delegate count from Feb. 1, Cruz had at least eight of the GOP delegates. Trump won seven and Rubio six.

Clinton, according to early reports from The AP, had 22 delegates and Sanders had 21. When the votes are finalized, Clinton is expected to pick up one more delegate.

Democrats have 24 delegates at stake in New Hampshire and Republicans have 23.

Before Iowa: Candidates collect endorsements ahead of votes

With MoveOn.org’s endorsement in early January, Bernie Sanders moved on up in the polls.

Days later, Hillary Clinton’s campaign celebrated an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, and touted an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“As a lifelong Planned Parenthood supporter, I’m honored to have the endorsement of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund,” Clinton said in response to the backing. “There has never been a more important election when it comes to women’s health and reproductive rights — and Planned Parenthood’s patients, providers and advocates across the country are a crucial line of defense against the dangerous agenda being advanced by every Republican candidate for president.”

HRC’s endorsement was decided by the organization’s board based partly on questionnaires completed by Democratic candidates. None of the Republicans responded.

Chad Griffin, president of HRC, announced the endorsement. He said, “Hillary Clinton is fighting to advance LGBT equality across our nation and throughout the world. We are proud to endorse Hillary Clinton for president, and believe that she is the champion we can count on in November — and every day she occupies the oval office.”

Clinton also is endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, EMILY’s List, the League of Conservation Voters, NARAL, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME and the National Organization for Women.

In its endorsement of Sanders, MoveOn pledged to mobilize millions of members during the primary season, including 43,000 members in Iowa and 30,000 in New Hampshire.

“This is a massive vote in favor of Bernie Sanders, showing that grassroots progressives across the country are excited and inspired by his message and track record of standing up to big money and corporate interests to reclaim our democracy for the American people,” said Ilya Sheyman, MoveOn political action director. “MoveOn members are feeling the Bern. We will mobilize aggressively to add our collective people power to the growing movement behind the Sanders campaign.”

The endorsement was derived from votes by MoveOn members. Sanders won 78.6 percent of the 340,665 votes cast. MoveOn said this was a record number of votes and the largest margin of victory in a presidential endorsement in its history.

Sanders, in a statement, said, “I’m humbled by their support and welcome MoveOn’s members to the political revolution.”

Sanders also is endorsed by Friends of the Earth and Democracy for America.

Meanwhile, in the battle for voters and backing on the GOP side, Donald Trump noted a “good day” after winning an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The two former reality TV stars appeared together at a rally in Iowa on Jan. 20.

“We’re almost at the finish line,” Trump told supporters less than two weeks before the leadoff Iowa caucus.

With polls showing Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a dead heat in the state, where evangelical voters are crucial to Republican candidates, Palin told ralliers, “No more pussy-footing around.” Palin endorsed Cruz in his 2012 run for the Senate.

Sanders, Clinton cool to Michael Bloomberg’s potential presidential run

Democratic presidential candidates gave a cool reception on Jan. 24 to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s potential independent White House run, with Bernie Sanders saying it would add another billionaire like Republican Donald Trump to the race.

With eight days to go until Iowa holds the first nominating contest on the road to the Nov. 8 presidential election, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio basked in the glow of an endorsement from the Des Moines Register, the state’s biggest newspaper.

The weekend disclosure from a source close to the situation that Bloomberg is laying the groundwork for a run that he could launch should Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton falter, sent shock waves rippling through the entire presidential field.

Sanders, a democratic socialist and Vermont senator who is threatening Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, told ABC’s “This Week” program that Bloomberg’s entry would add a second billionaire to the field. Trump, a real estate mogul, is leading the crowded Republican field.

Sanders has railed against “millionaires and billionaires” and the political power they wield throughout his insurgent campaign for the Democratic nomination.

“That is not what, to my view, American democracy is supposed to be about, a contest between billionaires. If that takes place, I am confident that we will win it,” Sanders said.

Many analysts believe a Bloomberg entry into the race could siphon Democratic votes and be another blow to Clinton, a former secretary of state and the wife of former President Bill Clinton.

An independent bid would be a heavy lift for Bloomberg. The last major third-party candidate, Ross Perot, won 18.9 percent of the vote in 1992, which some observers believe enabled Bill Clinton to defeat President George H.W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton, who won the Register’s endorsement on the Democratic side, said she expected to negate Bloomberg’s rationale for running.

“He’s a good friend of mine and I am going to do the best I can that I get the nomination and we’ll go from there,” she told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The way I read what he said is that if I didn’t get the nomination, he would do it. … I will relieve him of that,” she said.

Bloomberg, 73, a media magnate who has long privately flirted with the idea of a presidential run, served as mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013. He switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent in 2007 and has spent millions in recent years on national campaigns to tighten U.S. gun laws and reform immigration.

TRUMP ‘WOULD LOVE’ BLOOMBERG IN RACE

Trump noted that he and Bloomberg had differences on the issues of gun control and abortion and that he would love to run against him. Bloomberg favors reproductive choice.

“I know Michael very well and would love to compete with him. He is very opposite from me on guns and pro-life. … I would love to have Michael get in the race,” Trump told CNN.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told the ABC program that Bloomberg had been a “great mayor,” who was unlikely to get into the race unless Trump and Sanders were the parties’ nominees.

“But that’s way off into the future,” Bush said.

Rubio, at a town hall meeting in Marion, Iowa, brought up Bloomberg’s attempts for more gun control. He said he had been asked in a television interview to comment on Bloomberg’s potential candidacy.

“I said he’s not a candidate. If he gets in, we’ll talk about his record and his hatred for the Second Amendment,” Rubio said, referring to the constitutional amendment granting Americans the right to bear arms.

Bloomberg’s news service competes with Reuters.

Republican establishment bracing for the inevitability of Donald Trump

Donald Trump and some mainstream Republicans are engaged in a long-distance flirtation. Both sides are coming to the realization that they’ll need each other if the billionaire businessman becomes the party’s presidential nominee.

The GOP establishment is no fonder of Trump than when he first roiled the campaign last summer with his controversial comments about immigrants and women. But with voting beginning in just over a week, his durability atop preference polls has pushed some donors, strategists and party elders to grudgingly accept the prospect of his winning the nomination.

“We’d better stop hoping for something else and accept the possibility that he’s our nominee and be prepared to rally around him if that’s the case,” said Fred Malek, a top Republican presidential fundraiser.

Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee who represented Kansas in the House and Senate for decades, said of Trump: “He’s got this personality where I do believe he could work with Congress.”

Trump, too, has started to suggest that he’d look for ways to work with Republican leaders if he wins.

“I’m a dealmaker who will get things done,” he said Thursday during an event in Las Vegas. “There’s a point at which — let’s get to be a little establishment. We got to get things done, folks, OK?”

However, the establishment’s growing acceptance of Trump’s electoral prospects so far hasn’t manifested itself in tangible support for his campaign. The real estate mogul has not been endorsed by any congressional lawmakers or governors, nor are there any indications of a big wave of major donors planning to get involved with his campaign, despite Trump’s assertion that he’s received “so many calls” from wealthy and influential Republicans.

If anything, the most visible signs of support for Trump’s campaign in recent days have come from those who see themselves as outside the Republican establishment. Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and a favorite of the tea party insurgency, announced her support for him on Tuesday. Amy Kremer, the former chairman of the Tea Party Express organization, announced plans this week to launch a super PAC backing Trump’s candidacy.

“The one thing I know for sure is that he absolutely is 100 percent pro-American and he loves this country and wants to restore it to greatness,” Kremer said of Trump. “At this point, I really believe he is the only one with the ability to do that.”

Much of the mainstream Republican reckoning with Trump is rooted in deep disdain for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the businessman’s closest rival. Cruz is seen as more likely to try to upend the web of lobbyists, donors and other powerbrokers who have long wielded enormous influence in the Republican Party.

Liz Mair, a communications operative who is running one of the GOP’s few anti-Trump efforts, said donors affiliated with other candidates would rather let Trump beat Cruz in the early voting states than let their least-favorite senator gain momentum.

“They’d rather that he kills Cruz by winning in Iowa and New Hampshire and then try to take him down,” Mair said.

Even as he’s taken up the anti-establishment mantle, Trump has made some quiet overtures to GOP powerbrokers. He met with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson last year and has also reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, though he hasn’t spoken directly with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

There are still big swaths of establishment-minded Republican voters and officials who staunchly oppose Trump’s candidacy and believe both he and Cruz are unelectable in November. They say there’s still plenty of time for a more mainstream candidate to mount a serious challenge.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are all seeking to beat expectations in Iowa, then be a top finisher in New Hampshire. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is also in the mix in New Hampshire.

Having already been endorsed by four senators, Rubio’s campaign says it’s preparing to unveil a series of endorsements from high-profile elected officials in the coming weeks, part of an effort to push more mainstream Republicans to coalesce behind his candidacy.

“They’re not lining up behind Donald Trump,” Rubio said Friday on Fox News when asked about Trump’s establishment support. “They’re just telling people their opinion about Ted Cruz.”

Still, John Catsimatidis, a major Republican and Democratic donor, said it’s time for the GOP to accept that when it comes to Trump’s strength, “the facts are the facts.” After donating to several campaigns, including Bush’s and a super PAC supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker before he dropped out of the race in the fall, Catsimatidis says he’s now talking up Trump, a longtime friend, in conversations with other big money donors.

“He showed his toughness and we need somebody tough,” he said.

Trump himself has been a fixture of the New York donor class for decades and already has deep relationships with many establishment players. He often talks about how he’s been in politics all his life and has been seen as the “fair-haired boy” showering contributions on both Republicans and Democrats.

Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.