Iowa Democrat J.D. Scholten ― who generated national attention last year with his unsuccessful but unexpectedly strong bid to unseat white supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) ― announced Wednesday he is starting a nonprofit to help ensure that low-income Iowans receive the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Scholten is co-founding the initiative, called “Working Hero Iowa,” with California entrepreneur and Democratic donor Joe Sanberg.
Over the coming three months, Working Hero Iowa plans to conduct outreach to Iowans with modest earnings about their eligibility for the income-based refundable tax credit ― what is effectively free cash ― and provide them with free tax preparation services that they need to claim the benefit.
The EITC was created in 1975 to supplement the income of Americans whose jobs did not provide them enough income to escape poverty. It has historically enjoyed bipartisan support because it is structured to fight poverty by rewarding work.
But many low-wage workers eligible for the EITC, including tens of thousands in Iowa alone, are not aware of the benefit, or don’t earn enough money to file their federal income tax returns, according to Scholten.
“The EITC is the most effective anti-poverty policy in America,” Scholten said in a press release announcing the group’s founding. “Working Hero Iowa will help tens of thousands of low-income families across Iowa get cash refunds that they otherwise wouldn’t receive.”
Scholten and Sanberg also announced the group’s launch at the Iowa state Capitol in Des Moines on Wednesday morning.
Sanberg, who amassed wealth as an investor and entrepreneur, has plowed funds into promoting access to the federal EITC and advocating for passage of an analogous state-level credit in California in 2015.
His California-based nonprofit, CalEITC4Me, has connected low-income Californians with $4 billion in EITC benefits from the federal and state governments in the past few years.
Scholten, 38, a former minor league baseball player and paralegal, lost to King by 3 percentage points in November.
In an interview with HuffPost in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday, Scholten said he has not yet made up his mind about a future run for office ― either for U.S. Senate or for a second time in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.
“I’m waiting to see what happens with King,” he said. “And regarding the Senate seat, I’m considering it. I’m not closing any doors at this time. I’m just kinda waiting to see.”
But Scholten’s work with Working Hero Iowa will give him plenty of opportunities to stay in the public eye. He plans to hold events promoting the group’s EITC outreach and tax preparation services across the state, including several with 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Working Hero Iowa is also structured as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which allows it to engage in some types of partisan political activity. As a result, it could serve as a springboard for a future Scholten political run.
This story has been updated with further information about Working Hero Iowa.