DES MOINES, Iowa -- Senator Bill Dix, a married father of three, resigned from office just four hours after a video started circulating online in which he was seen kissing a lobbyist at a local bar.
As majority leader, the Senate Republican had the power to choose which bills came up for debate. Ethics experts say even if this relationship had no influence on those bills, simply raising the question is enough reason for the senator to step down.
The lobbyist seen in the video has been identified as Lindsey McCune, who lobbies for the Iowa League of Cities. The league represents municipalities across the state of Iowa. According to its website, the league “advocates for home rule” and works to inform legislators of how policy would impact Iowa’s cities.
Since 2017, according to the Iowa Legislature website, McCune registered “for” or “against” over 70 bills. According to ethics expert and former House representative Scott Raecker, whether her relationship with Senator Dix had any influence on those bills may never be known.
“The oversight committee could potentially look at that, however it would probably fit more within the ethics committee. What's important for the public to understand is those ethics committees are fairly narrowly fenced…it's only the things that are outlined in code chapter 68b and the ethics rules of the House of the Senate,” said Raecker.
Those rules don't mention anything about romantic or even personal relationships with lobbyists, and the guidelines specific to lobbyists don't mention anything about relationships with lawmakers; both deal mainly with avoiding financial conflicts of interest. However, Raecker says when a senator's relationship with a lobbyist is undisclosed, it leads to questions.
“In those instances, it's just important that it's knowledgeable and it's disclosed and that people avoid the appearance of impropriety, because that's really what's at stake, is impropriety, or the appearance of impropriety, which can be as damaging in the public arena,” he said.
Raecker says Dix's swift resignation shows that even a perceived conflict of interest is something the public will not tolerate.
“I think all of us in this country are much more in tune to the issues of what's appropriate and inappropriate in the workplace,” he said.
Several bills McCune lobbied both for and against made it to the floor for debate. A look through the outcomes of those bills do not appear to show a pattern.
The Iowa League of Cities has not issued an update to McCune’s status with them, but her picture still appears on the league's website.