IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A top Republican fundraiser whose firm works
for several prominent immigration hardliners is the partial
owner of the land where the Mexican man accused of killing Iowa
college student Mollie Tibbetts lived rent-free, a farm
spokeswoman said Friday.
Nicole Schlinger has long been a key fundraiser and campaign
contractor for GOP politicians in Iowa and beyond, including
this cycle for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Virginia Senate candidate
Schlinger is the president of Campaign Headquarters, a call
center that makes fundraising calls, identifies supporters and
helps turn out voters for conservative candidates and groups.
Her business is one of the largest in Brooklyn, the central Iowa
town where Tibbetts disappeared while out for a run on July 18.
Schlinger is married to Eric Lang, the president of the family-
owned dairy that has acknowledged providing employment and
housing for the last four years to Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the
man charged with murder in Tibbetts' death.
The couple - along with her husband's brother Craig Lang and his
wife - own farmland outside Brooklyn that includes trailers
where some of the dairy's employees live for free as a benefit
of their employment, farm spokeswoman Eileen Wixted confirmed.
She said Rivera lived there for the duration of his employment,
and about half of the farm's other 10 workers do so as well.
Under the arrangement, the farming company pays the couples to
rent the land but workers do not have to pay, she said.
In an email Friday, Schlinger said that she was "shocked and
deeply saddened" by Tibbetts' death and had never met Rivera.
"The perpetrator should be punished to the fullest extent of the
law, and when he meets his maker, suffer the consequences he
deserves," she wrote.
She said that she was gifted an ownership interest in the land
many years ago from her husband's family and that she has no
role in the farming operation.
Still, the fact that one of its own operatives has indirect ties
to the case could complicate GOP efforts to highlight the
gruesome slaying in its political messaging ahead of the
November midterm election. Dairy co-owner Craig Lang also was a
Republican candidate for Iowa agriculture secretary, finishing
third in a five-way race in the June primary.
Republicans such as President Donald Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim
Reynolds called for stricter immigration laws and enforcement
almost immediately after Rivera, who is suspected of being in
the country illegally, was charged Tuesday. Some have blamed
Democratic policies for the slaying, even though studies have
disputed the notion that those in the country illegally are more
likely to commit violent crime.
"Every victim below would be alive today if we enforced our
immigration laws," U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa tweeted Friday,
above a picture of Tibbetts and other victims. "Leftists
sacrificed thousands, including their own, on the altar of
Schlinger's business calls itself "the best conservative call
center in America." Her biography claims she is the most
prolific fundraiser in Iowa GOP history, having brought in more
than $50 million for politicians and causes. She has said her
business has made millions of phone calls for candidates seeking
offices ranging from president to city council since its
founding in 1999. Her firm's client list includes several
politicians who routinely call for stricter immigration
Federal Election Commission records show that Cruz's re-election
campaign has paid CampaignHQ nearly $1.7 million since the
beginning of 2017. A Cruz campaign spokeswoman had no immediate
Stewart, who has made stepping up deportations of immigrants in
the country illegally a major campaign theme, has also employed
the firm, along with the campaigns of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and
Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina. The now-defunct Stop
Sanctuary Cities PAC paid the firm $3,449 for its services in
In an interview Friday, Stewart said he had no problem with
Schlinger's property ties to the suspect, saying her firm does a
"great job" raising money.
"I hire people for their ability to do the work for my
campaign," he said. "Whatever she does in her personal life is
After Rivera was charged, Reynolds denounced an immigration
system that "allowed a predator like this to live in our
community." CampaignHQ was a top vendor for the campaigns of
former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who selected Reynolds as his
running mate in 2010, and has also done some work directly for
Reynolds' campaigns, state records show.
Investigators say that Rivera came to the country from Mexico
illegally several years ago when he was in the late teens. He is
accused of stalking Tibbetts while she was out for a run a few
miles from his home, killing her after she threatened to call
police on him, and dumping her body in a cornfield. Preliminary
autopsy results show that Tibbetts died from multiple "sharp
Schlinger and her husband have managed to largely avoid the
intense media spotlight that has followed the case. They did not
speak at a press conference Wednesday when farm manager Dane
Lang said Rivera presented an out-of-state identification and
Social Security number with a different name when he was hired
in 2014. Dane Lang said he was shocked to learn to that Rivera's
allegedly not in the country legally.
But others around town, including Rivera's defense lawyer,
question whether the family had to have had suspicions, if not
known, about Rivera's immigration status.
"They are taking a blind eye to what's going on," said defense
lawyer Allan Richards. "At some point a reasonable person would
have been more diligent in determining whether or not these
folks are legal."