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Iowa Senate leader resigns; video shows him kissing lobbyist

The top leader in the Iowa Senate says he's resigning after a video posted on a liberal news website purportedly showed him kissing a statehouse lobbyist.

Posted: Mar. 12, 2018 1:49 PM
Updated: Mar. 13, 2018 6:42 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The majority leader of the Iowa Senate resigned Monday after a website published video showing the married lawmaker kissing a statehouse lobbyist.

Sen. Bill Dix submitted a one-sentence resignation letter several hours after the liberal website Iowa Starting Line published its report about the Shell Rock Republican.

Dix did not comment on the circumstances surrounding his resignation as majority leader and as state senator, though Republican Senate President Jack Whitver alluded to the website's allegations in a statement.

"I believe he made the right decision for himself and for his district, but most importantly, I believe he made the decision in the best interest of his family," said Whitver about Dix.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled chamber plan to elect a new majority leader on Wednesday.

The resignation caps a swift response from Senate Republicans, after Iowa Starting Line posted video and photos on Monday showing Dix and a woman sitting together at a Des Moines bar. The video shows the two kiss. The website said the incident was recorded March 1.

The woman was identified as a lobbyist for Iowa League of Cities, an organization that seeks to sway legislation at the state Capitol. She did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Robert L. Palmer, director of government affairs and legislative counsel for the organization, said in an email to AP: "We are taking what we believe are appropriate actions, but because this is a personnel matter we cannot comment further."

After Dix's resignation, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement: "I believe he made the right decision in stepping down ... Iowans hold their elected officials to a high standard, and as elected officials, we have an obligation to lead."

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat, released a statement calling the video a "serious matter."

"Because this involves Senator Dix and a lobbyist, there will be questions about the impact of this relationship on legislation," she said in a statement.

Petersen also reiterated her criticism of Dix for how he handled the fallout of a recent sexual misconduct case within the chamber, which involved a former Senate GOP staffer. The ex-employee filed a lawsuit several years ago that claimed she was fired after reporting misconduct in the workplace that included the use of sexual language. The lawsuit went to trial last summer, and she was later awarded $1.75 million.

Dix has maintained the ex-staffer was fired for poor performance. An internal report later revealed senators made "sexually suggestive comments" or discussed "sexual preferences" on the chamber floor in recent years, and staff members in the Republican Senate office were unlikely to report misconduct because of fear of retaliation.

The Iowa Legislature has since hired a human resources director to oversee harassment complaints at the state Capitol.

Separately, a former Republican senator was tasked late last year with reviewing workplace culture at the Iowa Senate. The ex-lawmaker released recommendations in January that included suggesting all employees at the state Capitol — including elected lawmakers, nonpartisan staff, lobbyists and the media — receive training "regarding what constitutes inappropriate behavior."

Legislative leaders in the Republican-controlled Iowa House did not immediately comment on Dix, a 55-year-old pumpkin farmer from an area about 130 miles northeast of Des Moines. A biography online said he and his wife have three teenage children.

Dix was first elected to the Iowa House in 1996. He was later elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010, where he served as minority leader for several years. He became majority leader after GOP lawmakers took control of the chamber following the 2016 election.

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