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Facing Stock Trade Controversy, Cindy Axne Used Taxpayer Funds To Hire Dem Fixer

Iowa Dem paid Marc Elias thousands in office money just days after watchdog complaint

Rep. Cindy Axne (D., Iowa) / Wikimedia Commons
• March 21, 2022 4:59 am

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Just two days after a nonpartisan watchdog group filed a complaint showing congresswoman Cindy Axne failed to disclose up to $645,000 in stock trades, the Iowa Democrat used thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to hire liberal fixer Marc Elias.

From Sept. 24 to Sept. 30, Axne paid Elias Law Group nearly $5,700 for a "non-technology service contract," House disbursement disclosures show. Axne's partnership with Elias continued into October, when she paid the longtime Democratic operative an additional $12,567. The September contract began just two days after the Campaign Legal Center filed an ethics complaint showing Axne sold "more than 40 assets with a total value ranging from approximately $43,043 to $645,000" in 2019 and 2020 "without disclosing the transactions," a violation of the STOCK Act, which requires members of Congress to report large financial transactions within 30 days.

Axne, who is facing a difficult reelection bid in a district former president Donald Trump won in both 2016 and 2020, went on to concede that she failed to report the trades, calling the oversight a "clerical issue." In order to rectify the problem, Axne said she brought in an "outside counsel to audit her reports." But Axne did not reveal whom she hired and the subsequent cost to the taxpayer. Now, Axne's financial filings suggest the Democrat used at least $18,229 in taxpayer funds to enlist Elias.

Axne is far from the only Iowa Democrat to turn to Elias when facing a controversial issue. After failed congressional candidate Rita Hart lost by six votes to Republican congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks in 2020, the Democrat hired Elias to attempt to overturn the election. Instead of taking the issue to the Iowa court system, Elias attempted to bring the decision to a vote in the House, where Democrats hold a majority. The strategy eventually failed—but only after House Democrats billed taxpayers more than $800,000 in legal fees.

Iowa Republican chairman Jeff Kaufmann blasted Axne for hiring Elias after he "tried to subvert the will of Iowa voters."

"Cindy Axne's sketchy stock trades are now costing Iowa taxpayers a pretty penny," Kaufmann told the Washington Free Beacon. "It is offensive to the people of Iowa that Axne would hire Democrat lawyer Marc Elias after he tried to subvert the will of Iowa voters and remove Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the state-certified winner, from office. Democrats want to believe they are defending democracy, but it seems like Axne is now bankrolling a lawyer who sought to destroy it."

Axne, whose office did not return a request for comment, served on the Financial Services Committee at the time she failed to report her dozens of stock trades. In February, the Democrat came out against a ban on congressional stock trading. 

After that position attracted criticism, Axne reversed course in just one day, telling the New York Times that she "firmly believe[s] there should be a ban on public officials directing trades on individual stocks" and is "strongly in favor of tougher and clearer guardrails for public officials, increased penalties, and updated restrictions to help root out corruption, hold wrongdoers accountable, and improve confidence that our government is working in the public interest, not its own." Axne's statement did not mention her own STOCK Act violation. 

Axne is considered a top Republican target as the party looks to retake control of the House in 2022. Her top Republican opponents include financial planner Nicole Hasso and state senator and Air Force veteran Zach Nunn.