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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Running for third term, Blum sees himself ‘under assault’

Coverage of his link to internet firm an ‘assassination attempt’
By James Q. Lynch, The Gazette | Mar 12, 2018

CEDAR RAPIDS — Running for a third term in the U.S. House feels just like his first campaign, an upbeat and defiant Rep. Rod Blum told Linn County Republicans Saturday afternoon.

Five years ago, running for an open seat in the 20-county northeast Iowa 1st District, “we were under assault, under attack, the underdog and all that. And we are again,” Blum said.

Media reports make it seem like “I’m the worst person on the face of the planet,” said Blum, who also made stops in Dubuque, Jones and Delaware counties before speaking at the GOP county convention at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids.

He won that 2014 race and then defied the political establishment that told him that voting against incumbent Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner “sealed my death warrant.” Nonetheless, Blum was re-elected, outperforming both Donald Trump and Sen. Chuck Grassley.

“I’m still there,’ he said. “Boehner is gone.”

Blum thinks that’s because he’s done what he promised to do. He’s introduced legislation not to pay for first-class air travel and luxury rental cars for members of Congress. He’s trying to put a lifetime ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists.

“That’s cashing in on your vote, cashing in on the public trust,” Blum continued.

He also wants to cut the pay of members of Congress until the budget is balanced, make public the names of those who have used congressional funds to pay for sexual harassment settlements and enact a constitutional amendment to limit how long a person can serve in Congress.

“Do any of those bills really sound radical to you? They don’t sound radical to me,” Blum said, adding he believes 80 percent of people agree with him.

But you wouldn’t know that from media coverage of him, the Dubuque businessman said. He said that coverage of him is nearly as overwhelmingly negative as the coverage of President Trump.

It’s so bad, Blum said, he had to pay for advertisements in The Gazette, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and Marshalltown Times-Republican to boast that he returned more than $275,000 of tax money to the Treasury because he under-spent his office budget by 20 percent.

The media’s “latest craze” is that he didn’t report an investment in a digital reputation management company. Blum said investments of less than $1,000 do not have to be disclosed, but he later amended his ethics form to note it.

“What a beautiful assassination attempt,” he called stories about his involvement in Tin Moon, a Dubuque firm that claims it can bury derogatory information about a business in online search results.

“I don’t work for them. I don’t run it,” he said about the company.

Tin Moon’s website continues to show a photo of Blum in its “About Us” section, identifying him as the “majority shareholder” and promoting his “marketing expertise.”

His involvement in the company was first reported by the Associated Press. The Gazette later reported that, based on a page deep in the firm’s website, it said it had approached businesses that received black marks from the U.S., Food and Drug Administration and offered for a fee to obscure that information from the public.

Later Saturday, Blum declined to say whether it is appropriate for a member of Congress to invest in a company that offers the service of burying derogatory information from the federal government.

“This is nothing new,” according to Blum. “They smeared me in 2014. They smeared me in 2016.”

He told Republicans not to be discouraged by Democrats “aided and abetted” by the media.

Four Democrats have announced plans to challenge Blum this year.

They hope to win the 2018 election, he said, by discouraging Republicans from voting.

“Do not get down,” he said. “I’m not taking it and you shouldn’t. Stand up to this nonsense. I’m fighting for you. I’m not changing.”

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