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NEWS 1.12.23: Woodbury County Supervisor's Wife Faces Voter Fraud Charges, Ricketts Appointed to the U.S. Senate, Iowa School Funding Update, and More

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State of Nebraska
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The wife of a Woodbury County Supervisor has been arrested and charged with more than 50 counts of voter fraud.

Forty-nine-year-old Kim Taylor of Sioux City is accused of submitting or having others submit dozens of voter registration and absentee ballot request forms in 2020 when her husband was on the ballot. Jeremy Taylor unsuccessfully ran in the Republican primary for Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District in 2020. In November of that same year, Taylor won back his seat on the Supervisors after resigning earlier in the year after the county auditor ruled Taylor did not live at the address listed on his voter registration.

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Kim Taylor has been charged with 23 counts of fraudulent voting, 26 counts of providing false information, and three counts of voter registration fraud. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison for each count.

In one of his first acts as Nebraska's governor, Republican Jim Pillen named Pete Ricketts to fill the state's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

“This is an unexpected opportunity. I am humbled and grateful,” said Ricketts.

Pillen surprised no one Thursday in naming his predecessor to the seat vacated Sunday by Ben Sasse. Pillen was elected in November in large part, critics say, because of Ricketts’ backing, which included more than $100,000 of his own money contributed directly to Pillen’s campaign.

Fox News reports that the amount was even more. Sasse announced in the fall that he would be leaving the Senate to take a job as president of the University of Florida.

The governor said 111 people applied for the vacant seat, and nine people, all Republicans, were interviewed. He said he chose Ricketts based on their shared conservatism and Ricketts’ promise that he would later run to be elected to the seat.

The Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Jane Kleeb, released this statement:

“Gov. Pillen appointed Pete Ricketts in order to pay him back for buying the governor’s seat,” Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said in a statement. “This is the most blatant pay-to-play scheme we’ve seen in our state, and it’s happening right in front of us all. Nebraskans deserve a Senator who will work for them, not someone who buys elections as a hobby.”

Statement from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:

“As his neighboring Governor and friend, I saw firsthand the hard work and dedication Pete Ricketts put in to deliver on his promises for Nebraskans. Republican Governors know how to get things done, and Pete will bring that leadership to Washington.

“I know Governor Ricketts will continue the fight for freedom alongside Senators Fischer, Grassley, and Ernst. Whether it’s defending the ethanol industry or fighting to ensure the Midwest is strongly represented, Pete will continue to be a champion for conservative values.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature school choice legislation has taken its first step forward in the Iowa Senate.

The plan to create state-funded Education Savings Accounts that families could use to pay for private school advanced out of a Senate education subcommittee.

Supporters pushed back on claims that state funding for private schools would threaten public schools. They point to a provision that would send around 1,200 dollars back to the local public school of every student that receives an Education Savings Account, even if they never went to public school.

Iowa National Guard Major General Ben Corell says 2022 was the worst year for military recruitment since 1973. In a speech to lawmakers today he said educational opportunities and jobs are pulling people away from military service. And that less than a third of young people meet the physical requirements to serve.

Corell says a year ago, the Iowa National Guard was staffed at 105% on the army side and 100% on the air side. Now, that’s dropped to 98% and 97%.

Corell is asking lawmakers for more than a million additional dollars for college scholarships. Last year, the Guard gave about 200 more scholarships than in typical years. Corell says it’s an important recruiting tool.

After more than 23 years in business, Sioux City internet service provider FiberComm is being bought out.

Thursday morning, Cedar Rapids-based ImOm Communications announced it entered into an agreement to acquire FiberComm. ImOn, which currently covers cities in eastern Iowa and has been in business since 2007 and networks reaches more than 77,000 households and businesses.

The Marketplace open enrollment period for people who don’t have health insurance ends this weekend.

Regional Administrator Sharon Graham tells Radio Iowa there’s still time to sign up. “It’s ending on January 15th. So that’s this Sunday, January 15th. And that will be the last time that people can enroll in quality, affordable health coverage for this year, with coverage effective on February 1st,” Graham says.

She says you should go to healthcare.gov as soon as you can and review the options available before the deadline.

News release from Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen:

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Governor Jim Pillen announced that former Governor Pete Ricketts will be appointed as Nebraska's next U.S. Senator. Governor Pillen and Senator-designate Ricketts were joined by U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, Lieutenant Governor Joe Kelly, Attorney General Mike Hilgers, Secretary of State Bob Evnen, State Treasurer John Murante, and 30 state senators.

"Pete Ricketts fits the bill," said Governor Pillen. "He is hard-working, a positive leader, and someone who advocates for conservative and Christian values. Pete has a proven record of serving the state, both in times of plenty and in times of crisis. These are the attributes that he will take with him on his journey to Washington."

In total, 111 applicants applied for the seat. Nine candidates were interviewed.

Governor Pillen listed five criteria for his process in identifying the right candidate:

  • Someone who would represent the state's values and ideals
  • Someone who understood the nature of the job and could hit the ground running
  • Someone who would garner support from Nebraskans across the state
  • Someone who was committed and wanted the position for the long term
  • Someone who would bring enthusiasm to the role and do what's best for Nebraska

Senator-designate Pete Ricketts said he looks forward to representing Nebraskans in the Senate:

"I'm humbled and honored by this unexpected opportunity to continue serving the people of Nebraska. It's never been more important that we advance Nebraska's interests and commonsense, conservative values in Congress, and that's what my focus will be."

Senator Deb Fischer said she looks forward to working with her new colleague:

"Congratulations to Pete, Susanne, and their whole family. We all know that Pete loves Nebraska, and that he is committed to continuing to serve the people of our great state. I look forward to working together in this new capacity and forging a strong partnership in the U.S. Senate. We will continue to fight every day for a stronger Nebraska and a more secure nation.”

News release from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office:

Woman Arrested for Voter Fraud Scheme

An Iowa woman was arrested today in Sioux City for her role in an alleged voter fraud scheme during the Iowa 2020 primary and general elections.

Kim Phuong Taylor, 49, of Sioux City, made her initial court appearance today. According to court documents, Taylor allegedly perpetrated a scheme to generate votes in the primary election in June 2020, when her husband was an unsuccessful candidate for Iowa’s 4th U.S. Congressional District, and subsequently in the 2020 general election, when her husband was a successful candidate for Woodbury County Supervisor. Taylor allegedly submitted or caused others to submit dozens of voter registrations, absentee ballot request forms, and absentee ballots containing false information. For example, although these documents required the signer to affirm that he or she was the person named in them, Taylor signed them for voters without their permission and told others that they could sign on behalf of relatives who were not present.

Taylor is charged by indictment with 26 counts of providing false information in registering and voting, three counts of fraudulent registration, and 23 counts of fraudulent voting. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each count.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Timothy T. Duax for the Northern District of Iowa, Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Special Agent in Charge Eugene Kowel of the FBI Omaha Field Office, and Acting Inspector in Charge Brad Mahs of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Denver Division made the announcement.

The FBI Omaha Field Office and USPIS Denver Division are investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Richard B. Evans of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Timmons for the Northern District of Iowa are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Submitted News Release:

ImOn Communications Announces Agreement to Acquire FiberComm

CEDAR RAPIDS and SIOUX CITY, IA, January __, 2023 - ImOn Communications, LLC (“ImOn”), a leading provider of fiber broadband services in Eastern Iowa since 2007, announces today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire FiberComm, pending regulatory approvals. FiberComm has been providing high quality Internet and voice services to businesses in the Sioux City market for over 20 years.

ImOn was founded in 2007 as a single-market cable provider and has transformed into a regional fiber-to-the-premise platform that currently owns and operates a 2,000+ mile network that reaches over 77,000 households and businesses. The Company is committed to delivering superior network reliability, unrivaled connection speeds, and exceptional customer service.

“ImOn and FiberComm share a vision to provide reliable, high-quality services and responsive, caring customer support in our respective markets,” says Patrice Carroll, CEO of ImOn. “We look forward to working with FiberComm’s excellent team to build ImOn’s service footprint in the Western part of Iowa and provide fiber broadband services to both residents and businesses in the Sioux City area.”

Al Aymar, CEO of FiberComm, said, “The FiberComm team is excited by the opportunity ImOn brings to Sioux City. Both residents and businesses in our community will benefit greatly from the fast, reliable fiber-to-the-premise broadband services and superior level of customer care.”

ImOn remains committed to completing its network expansion to all homes and businesses in Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Iowa City, Coralville and Dubuque. The acquisition of FiberComm will be ImOn’s first expansion of its service footprint outside of Eastern Iowa.

The transaction is expected to close in 2023 and is subject to obtaining customary regulatory approvals. Charlesmead Advisors, LLC, served as Exclusive Advisor to FiberComm on the transaction. ImOn was advised by Shuttleworth & Ingersoll and Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.