Five Republicans who are vying for their party’s U.S. Senate nomination gathered for a 90-minute forum tonight, agreeing on most issues, but disagreeing on a few, like whether National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor.
Mark Jacobs said if the federal government looks at records, there should be probable cause.
“There ought to be reasonable belief that there has been a crime commited,” Jacobs said. “…I think part of the failure we have is a failure of oversight of this program on the part of congress and also we didn’t have appropriate whistleblower programs. I’m glad Edward Snowden raised the concerns he did. I wish he wasn’t sitting in Russia, that we would have had the appropriate channels in our country to raise those.”
Joni Ernst pointed to the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“I think there is a portion of me that says I am glad that he brought to light that we were looking at private citizens’ emails, tracking conversations, but again we have to protect their 4th Amendment rights, those citizens of the United States,” Ernst said. “But, on the other side I do view him as a traitor for releasing that information.”
Sam Clovis said he still has a “very high security clearance” from his work as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“I nearly lost my job in 2003 because I spoke out against the Patriot Act…because I said this would be the abuse that would take place and, guess what? I take no pleasure in saying: ‘I told you so,'” Clovis said. “On the other side of it, I see the issue here of him revealing classified sources. That’s wrong and he ought to be punished for that.”
Matt Whitaker said it’s time to “terminate” any federal program that is “spying on” Americans.
“We certainly need to gather intelligence on foreign nationals that could do harm to our country…but what we can never do is injure the constitutional rights, especially the 4th Amendment rights, of out American citizens,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker, along with Ernst and Clovis all support 12-year term limits on members of congress. Scott Schaben strongly opposes the concept.
“If you don’t like people that are in Washington for more than 12 years, vote ’em out,” Schaben said. “As a party, here we have a five-way primary. Why haven’t we had five-way primaries on incumbents before? Because people are afraid of it. If you don’t like the job your elected official’s doing…vote ’em out.”
Jacobs agreed, saying term limits would make it harder for legislators from small states like Iowa to gain influence within congress.
The senate candidate forum was broadcast live on Iowa Public Television and has been posted here.
The group of five Republicans is vying for the seat currently held by Democrat Tom Harkin, who announced in January of 2013 that he would not seek reelection. Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo is the only Democratic candidate running for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.