Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

Credentials

  • Bachelor's degree in psychology, Iowa State University. [1]
  • Master's degree in public administration, Columbus State University (formerly Columbus College). [1]

Background

Joni Ernst is the Republican junior United States Senator for Iowa as of 2014, making her the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States Congress. Ernst was in the Iowa Senate for a term between 2011 and 2014, and prior to entering politics served in the Iowa Army National Guard for 23 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2015. [2], [3], [4]

Ernst was selected to give the 2015 Republican response to the president’s State of the Union and was elected vice chair of the United States Senate Republican Conference in November 2018. [5], [6]

Ernst has close ties to the Koch brothers' political network, acknowledging at a conference in June 2014 that it was the Kochs and their allies that “really started my trajectory” towards the US Senate, adding: “And this is the thing that we are going to take back – that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network.” [7]

In August 2013, Ernst was invited to a gathering of wealthy conservative donors and received hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of television ads from the Koch network during her Senate race. Karl Crow, a long-time employee of the Kochs, created a nonprofit group called Trees of Liberty which spent $257,000 on statewide television advertising. According to a Politico report entitled ”How the Kochs launched Joni Ernst Trees of Liberty also ran a web campaign attacking Ernst’s most competitive GOP rival, Mark Jacobs, a retired energy executive. The ads attacked Jacobs for supporting a proposal years earlier to limit carbon emissions. [8]

On her Senate profile, Ernst lists her priorities as “cutting out-of-control spending, reducing taxes, eliminating harmful regulations and balancing the budget.” Ernst serves on five Senate committees: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; Judiciary; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. [2]

One of Ernst's key interests is defending agriculture from what she calls “undue regulatory burdens from Washington.” Ernst also claims to be “heavily engaged in defending the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)” which she calls a “valuable tool designed to promote the use of renewable fuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, which helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” In her role as chair of the Rural Development and Energy subcommittee, she writes that the committee's programs include “improving renewable energy and energy efficiency for farms and ranches.” [9]

Ernst states that she supports an “all-of-the-above energy approach” which includes “our plentiful fossil fuel reserves, increasing utilization of renewables and building on advances in energy efficiency.” She is a strong advocate for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, having been an original cosponsor of the legislation to approve its construction. [10]

Ernst has called the “Green New Deal” proposed by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “socialist fantasy” that would “bankrupt our nation and devastate our rural communities,” claiming it would cost $93 trillion over ten years. [11]

Ernst's views and approach to politics have been compared to those of Sarah Palin. Ernst has a hardline rightwing position on many social issues, having endorsed banning abortions and many forms of birth control, privatizing Social Security and calling the existence of a federal minimum wage as “ridiculous.” She received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. [12], [13], [1]

Ernst is a vice chair of the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference and has been a speaker at previous conferences. [14], [15]

Stance on Climate Change

September 28, 2014

In a debate against rival candidate Bruce Braley ahead of the Senate elections, Ernst said: [16]

“I don’t know the science behind climate change. I can’t say one way or another what is the direct impact, whether it’s man-made or not. I’ve heard arguments from both sides. I do believe in protecting our environment but without the job killing regulations that are coming out of the EPA.” [16]

May 9, 2014

Ernst is quoted in a Des Moines Register report ahead of her Senate election as saying she had not seen proof that climate change is “entirely man-made.” In the same article, Ernst states that she is “adamantly opposed” to a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. [17]

Key Quotes

March 6, 2019

Tweeting in response to the “Green New Deal” proposed by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ernst said: [18]

“Don’t get me wrong. Increasing our reliance on renewables is a laudable goal and one that I support, but we have to be realistic about our current energy capabilities and needs.

“I’m proud to say that my home state of #Iowa is one of the nation’s leaders in renewable energy, with wind providing nearly 40% of our electricity, more than any other state.” [18]

June 5, 2018

Ernst said of Scott Pruitt, then head of the Environmental Protection Agency: [19]

“He is about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C., and if the president wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own Cabinet.” [19]

June 3, 2017

Ernst said she respected Donald Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Omaha World-Herald reported: [20]

“Keeping our air and water clean and protecting our environment for generations to come is something we all care about. The United States can continue to do this without overly burdensome, government-imposed regulations that increase costs on Americans and hurt our economy… Whether or not the U.S. is a member of this agreement does nothing to preclude our country from reducing our emissions on our own accord, and finding market-driven, innovative solutions for our energy needs.” [20]

June 16, 2014

At a conference held by the Koch brothers, Ernst said it was the Kochs and their allies that “really started my trajectory” towards the US Senate, adding: “And this is the thing that we are going to take back – that it started right here with all of your folks, this wonderful network.” [7]

Key Deeds

March 7, 2019

In a speech to the Senate, Ernst called the “Green New Deal” a “socialist fantasy” that would “bankrupt our nation and devastate our rural communities,” Breitbart reported. She claimed it would cost $93 trillion over ten years and that “every American family would have to pay $65,000 annually.” [11]

November 14, 2018

Ernst was elected vice chair of the United States Senate Republican Conference. [6]

February 26, 2015

Ernst spoke at the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference, of which she is a vice chair. [15], [14]

January 24, 2015

Ernst spoke at the 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit held at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. The event was jointly organised by and Citizens United, the right-wing dark money group that secured a controversial 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 2010, allowing corporations and individuals to make unlimited “independent” political expenditures, leading to the rise of the “super PACs” and enormous (c)(4) non-profits running so-called “issue” ads timed to affect elections.

 Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse argues that this dramatic change in the law has been responsible for preventing the introduction of climate legislation in the US. Citizens United received funding from the Koch nework when it was created in 1988. [21], [22], [23]

Other speakers at the Iowa Freedom Summit included Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz; then Governor Mike Huckabee; former Senator Rick Santorum; John Bolton; Governor Scott Walker and then-political pollster, Kellyanne Conway. [24]

January 20, 2015

Ernst gave the 2015 Republican response to the president’s State of the Union. [25]

May 9, 2014

Ernst was criticised by her Democratic opponent in the 2014 Senate election for having missed more than 100 votes in the previous legislative session of the Iowa state Senate. [17]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Resources

  1. Meet the Candidate: Iowa's U.S. Senate seat: Joni Ernst, Republican,” Des Moines Register, June 4, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  2. Meet Joni,” Senate.gov. Archived April 8, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/tz5Rc

  3. Maggie O'brien. “Joni Ernst's Senate victory makes her first woman to represent Iowa in Congress,” Omaha World-Herald, November 5, 2014. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/eOAqL

  4. Jennifer Jacobs. “Joni Ernst retires from the military,” Des Moines Register, December 3, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  5. Adam Lerner. “Ernst: Yes, I am a 'combat veteran',” Politico, February 10, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/Q6kL4

  6. Alexander Bolton. “McConnell reelected as leader, Thune promoted to whip,” The Hill, November 14, 2018. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/H9AxO

  7. Steve Benen. “GOP Senate candidates credit Koch backing,” MSNBC, August 27, 2014. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/9gMPQ

  8. Kenneth Vogel. “How the Kochs launched Joni Ernst,” Politico, November 12, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/JLWd7

  9. Joni Ernst: Agriculture,” Senate.gov. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/86xy7

  10. Joni Ernst: Energy and Environment,” Senate.gov. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/B0kOb

  11. Sean Moran. “Joni Ernst Calls out $93 Trillion Green New Deal as ‘Raw Deal’ for America,” Breitbart, March 6, 2019. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/B0kOb

  12. Bernie Quigley. “Sarah Palin and Joni Ernst: Making them squeal,” The Hill, March 28, 2014. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/B0kOb

  13. Steve Benen. “The ‘perfect choice’ to serve as the voice of the 2015 GOP,” MSNBC, January 15, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/xmIqk

  14. Vice-Chair Joni Ernst,” Conservative Political Action Conference. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/IxgtB

  15. CPAC 2015 - Senator Joni Ernst, IA,” YouTube video uploaded by user American Conservative Union on February 26, 2015. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  16. James Hohmann. “Braley, Ernst tear into each other,” Politico, September 28, 2014. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/00rBJ

  17. Jason Noble. “Joni Ernst: I was 'extremely offended' by AWOL attack,” Des Moines Register, May 9, 2014. Archived May 31, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  18. Don’t get me wrong. Increasing our reliance on renewables is a laudable goal and one that I support, but we have to be realistic about our current energy capabilities and needs.” Tweet by @SenJoniErnst, March 6, 2019. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

  19. Timothy Cama. “GOP senator says Pruitt is ‘as swampy as you get’,” The Hill, June 5, 2018. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/3MaDg

  20. Robin Tysver. “Iowa and Nebraska lawmakers stand by Trump on Paris climate accord,” Omaha World-Herald, June 3, 2017. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/ffrKT

  21. Iowa Freedom Summit, Senator Joni Ernst,” C-Span, January 24, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/XNaam

  22. Diane Toomey. “How Big Money in Politics Blocked U.S. Action on Climate Change,” Yale Environment 360, May 10, 2017. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/QVJXu

  23. Emily Dalgo, Ashley Balcerzak. “Seven years later: Blurred boundaries, more money,” Center for Responsive Politics, January 19, 2017. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/UuVRy

  24. Homepage,” Iowa Freedom Summit. Archived May 31, 2019. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  25. Sen. Joni Ernst. “Full Text of Joni Ernst’s Republican Response to 2015 State of the Union,” The Daily Signal, January 20, 2015. Archived May 31, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/Y6MMj

Other Resources

Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0