Best of the States


Tibbetts murder suspect lived, worked on land linked to GOP fundraiser

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A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business in Brooklyn, Iowa, Aug. 21, 2018, the day her body was found after a month-long search. – AP Photo / Charlie Neibergall

Within hours of the news that the man charged with killing Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts was a Mexican citizen believed to be in the United States illegally, Republican leaders from President Donald Trump to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds injected the case into the political debate, blaming lax immigration policies for allowing the man into the community in the first place.

Noting Tibbetts’ death at a rally in West Virginia, Trump said, “The immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting them changed, but we have to get more Republicans. We have to get ’em.”

Amid such comments, Iowa City correspondent Ryan J. Foley was reporting on the Tibbetts case from the central Iowa city of Brooklyn when he heard an explosive tip from two longtime Republican Party sources. You won’t believe the rumor about who is part of the farm family that employed and housed the suspect, they said. It’s one of our party’s best fundraisers, Nicole Schlinger.

Foley was determined to discover whether what he was told about Schlinger was true, especially after learning she was the state GOP’s most prolific fundraiser in history and president of what she calls the “best conservative call center in America.”

Foley obtained property records showing she and her husband owned the farm trailer where Rivera had lived,and her husband was president of the farm. Foley eventually got a farm spokeswoman to confirm that Rivera and other workers lived there rent-free as a benefit of their employment. He then got confirmation from Schlinger,who had avoided his questions for days.

A check of state and federal campaign finance records revealed that Schlinger’s client list not only included Reynolds but many other anti-illegal-immigration hard-liners,including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Virginia Senate candidate Corey Stewart and even the Stop Sanctuary Cities PAC.

Foley’s story was used extensively by Iowa newspapers and was a big online hit,with postings by 356 members and social influencers as well as 40,000 Facebook interactions.

For scooping local and national competitors on a high-interest topic even as he reported on spot developments, Ryan Foley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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