Clay Masters

Morning Edition Host

Clay Masters joined the Iowa Public Radio newsroom as a statehouse and political correspondent in 2012 and started hosting IPR’s Morning Edition in 2014. Clay is an award-winning multi-media journalist whose radio stories have been heard on various NPR and American Public Media programs.

He was one of the founding reporters of Harvest Public Media, the regional journalism consortium covering agriculture and food production in the Midwest. He was based in Nebraska where he worked for Nebraska’s statewide public radio and television network. 

Clay continues to report on a wide variety of topics including politics, health and the environment. He’s also a regular music contributor to NPR’s arts desk.

Clay’s favorite NPR program is All Things Considered.

Ways to Connect

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Carly Fiorina is a former executive at Hewlett Packard and she’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination. We reached her Friday morning at a campaign stop in Council Bluffs. 

Note: The conversation took place Friday morning before the attacks in Paris.

Clay Masters: There was a lot of momentum behind your campaign coming out of those first two debates. What are you going to do in next 90 days to make sure you can keep momentum going or build a little bit more moving forward?

Photo by John Pemble

The new University of Iowa president, Bruce Harreld, says his biggest challenge in his new job is building trust across the entire UI community. Harreld’s first day was last week. The former IBM Executive faced scrutiny before he was selected for the job for how the search was conducted. Harreld says right now his job is to listen.


  It was here in Iowa where young voters helped propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. As the president leaves the oval office – Iowans have the opportunity to do the same in the caucuses in less than three months. Where does the youth vote stand now? NPR’s Michel Martin will be in Des Moines next week to hold a conversation on the topic. She talks with IPR's Clay Masters about the November 10th event at Drake University.

For decades, many presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa have made sure to offer their loud support for ethanol — the fuel made from corn.

Ethanol is an important industry in Iowa. The state is the top producer of ethanol in the nation, accounting for 28 percent of national production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But this election cycle, ethanol is not the campaign force it once was.

Take the contrast between George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and the current campaign of his brother, Jeb Bush.

Clay Masters/IPR

The three remaining Democratic presidential candidates rallied thousands of supporters in Des Moines last night, at the state party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.  During the Saturday’s speeches, Senator Sanders drew contrasts to Clinton by talking about his early opposition to the war in Iraq, the keystone XL pipeline and the Defense of Marriage Act. Janice Payne is a retired lab tech from Des Moines. She attended a rally for Senator Sanders before the dinner. “He’s more for the middle-class and he’s not about being bought by the upper echelon.

John Pemble / IPR

IPR's Clay Masters interviewed former Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush at his West Des Moines headquarters Wednesday. The full transcript is below.

CM: Governor Bush, you’re doing your longest swing through Iowa this week. Why haven’t you been focusing more time here in Iowa?

Covering the Caucuses

Oct 2, 2015
Clay Masters / IPR

 The Iowa caucuses are only four months away now and with them be ready to hear more from NPR political reporters. NPR's Don Gonyea and Tamara Keith stopped by Iowa Public Radio to discuss covering the Iowa caucuses with IPR's Clay Masters.

"You tend to get a cross-section of parties. You get people haven’t made up their mind up yet and they’re happy to talk to you," Gonyea says. "That’s a treasure trove for a reporter."

Gonyea also notes you get close access to  most of the candidates.

Clay Masters/IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. During a campaign stop in Des Moines, the former Secretary of State had not taken a position until now because she thought the issue would be resolved.

Clinton says she did not want to interfere with the President’s ongoing decision-making regarding the controversial extension of the Canadian crude oil pipeline. But during the campaign stop at Moulton Elementary School, a college student asked where she stood on its construction.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Creative Commons

In a small state like Iowa with so many presidential candidates on the ground, the homegrown political talent to support those campaigns is stretched thin.

Joe Shannahan knows firsthand how tough the market for experienced political operatives is in the Hawkeye State these days.

"This year, it's difficult to find staff, because there are so many campaigns," says Shannahan, a partner with LS2Group in Des Moines, a public relations firm that often hires former campaign workers from both parties.

Photo Courtesy of the artist


John Darnielle is the songwriter and leader of the band The Mountain Goats. He headlined this weekend’s Maximum Ames Music Festival. He performed an expansive set including songs from The Mountain Goats's newest record, "Beat the Champ," a concept album about professional wrestling.


Darnielle, who lived in Ames, Colo and Grinnell, is also an author. His first novel Wolf in White Van was nominated for the National Book Award last year. It's a fascinating tale of an outcast gamer whose face had been mutilated.

John Pemble/IPR file

Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders leads rival Hillary Clinton by one point among Iowa caucus-goers, in a poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University.  It found 41-percent of likely Democratic participants back Sanders, while 40-percent chose former Secretary of State Clinton. 

The poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.4 percentage points.  

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation has been purchased for $2.4 billion from another media company. 

Meredith was bought by Virginia-based Media General which will form a new holding company. It will change its name to Meredith Media General and will maintain corporate and executive offices in both Des Moines and Richmond, Virginia. 

Clay Masters / IPR

  New figures from Iowa’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship show 1,800 Iowa farmers have taken advantage of $3.5 million in state money meant to reduce pollutants from their fields. The state’s largest water utility says the figures divert attention from Iowa’s slide toward accepting environmental mediocrity.

John Pemble / IPR

While traveling in Iowa this week, Republican Presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been critical of an upcoming White House visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has a longtime friendship with the Chinese leader which makes for a unique situation for the G-O-P candidate who’s investing a lot of his campaign time in Iowa.

Creative Commons

Iowa Department of Human Services announced four private companies that will manage the services of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program. Des Moines Register Newspaper Investigative Reporter Jason Clayworth took a look at some of the past problems that each of the four firms have faced in the past.

“What we found was for each of them was a series of deep problems with either mismanagement or fraud,” Clayworth says. “Some of them resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines or settlements paid.”

Joyce Russell/IPR file

Florida Senator Marco Rubio spoke to a rain soaked audience at the Iowa State Fair Tuesday.  The Republican presidential candidate kept his appearance on the Des Moines Register Soapbox state brief because of the weather. Rubio used just half his allotted time of 20 minutes. He stuck to his standard stump speech including the story about his Cuban immigrant parents and their work ethic.

John Pemble / IPR

 CM: Governor, you’ve been spending a lot of time in Iowa, even before you initially announced that you were running for president. All this time here, two to three words, how do you describe Iowa?

SW: A lot like Wisconsin.

CM: That’s four words, but we’ll take it, I guess. You said in the debate during your campaign for reelection that you would do four years as governor. What made you change your mind to decide to get into the race?

John Pemble/IPR

Two more Republican presidential hopefuls spoke to Iowa State Fair crowds this morning.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took on members of a Wisconsin labor union, while former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina chose to use nearly all of her allotted 20-minutes taking questions from the crowd.

During Walker’s speech on the Des Moines Register Soapbox stage, members of a Wisconsin labor union began heckling the Wisconsin Governor who’s known for stripping bargaining rights from state employees. Walker told the protesters he’s not intimidated by them.

Clay Masters / IPR

CM: You’ve been spending a lot of time in Iowa recently, making a lot of weekend trips. Tell me what are two to three words that you would use to describe Iowa?

HC: Open, committed, and beautiful.

CM: Plain and simple?

HC: Yea, absolutely.

Clay Masters / IPR

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump made a campaign stop at the Iowa State Fair Saturday. Trump passed on a popular state fair candidate event and instead gave kids a ride on his helicopter before walking around the fairState Fair officials told Donald Trump he could not land his helicopter on the Iowa State fairgrounds, so he did it less than a mile away and flew kids over the fair. He also spoke to reporters and says his brain has built a great business and will be good for the country.

Morgan / Flickr

A third patient has died since being transferred to a private nursing home from the shuttered state mental institution in Clarinda. The news comes as the state’s department of Human Services provided an update on the state’s mental health redesign.

A third patient has died since being transferred to a private nursing home from the shuttered state mental institution in Clarinda. That news came as the state’s Department of Human Services provided an update on the state’s mental health redesign.

Many of the Republican presidential candidates have a hefty goal in Iowa ahead of its first-in-nation caucuses: make a campaign stop in all of the state's 99 counties. Along the way, presidential hopefuls are turning to the Iowa-based restaurant chain Pizza Ranch, whose ubiquity and inexpensive cuisine have made it a staple of the caucus campaign trail.

Clay Masters / IPR


Brenda Hummel's 7-year-old daughter Andrea was born with severe epilepsy. Like many children with significant diseases or disabilities, she has health insurance through Medicaid. Hummel navigated Iowa's Medicaid resources for years to find just the right doctors and care for her daughter. But now Iowa's governor, Republican Terry Branstad, is moving full speed ahead with a plan to put private companies in charge of managing Medicaid's services, and that has Hummel worried.

Iowa Public Radio / Clay Masters

CLAY MASTERS: Last October we brought you the story of $3 million worth of illegal construction productions at one of the nation’s most sacred Native American burial grounds. And it happened under the watch of the National Park Service.

Now this we’re talking about is Effigy Mounds. It’s up in northeast Iowa. And new evidence shows that the National Park Service has covered up a report on the Effigy Mounds scandal.

Ryan Foley is with me. He’s a reporter with the Associated Press here in Iowa. Hello Ryan.

RYAN FOLEY: Hello Clay.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Clay Masters conducted this interview with Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley Friday, July 24th. Below is a partially transcribed interview.

M: How do you feel you're getting your name out there? Do you like feel you're connecting more, the more time you spend here?

Clay Masters / IPR

Plenty of presidential candidates campaigned in the state this weekend. They were in town for two major party events. There was the Family Leadership Summit in Ames on Saturday which attracts evangelical Republicans. And the state Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner was in Cedar Rapids on Friday.

Clay Masters / IPR

A new group, called Latino Political Network, aimed at increasing the number of Latinos running for elected office in Iowa holds its first meeting. Currently there are no Latino members of the Iowa legislature and this group wants to change that.

The organization was modeled after a similar Iowa group called 50/50 in 2020 that encourages women to run for elected office.

Clay Masters / IPR

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was campaigning in Iowa Wednesday, two days after announcing he's running for the Republican party nomination for president. 

His campaign chose small towns for town-hall style meetings. In Washington, Iowa he took questions from the press including one about Pope Francis’ view that a revolution is needed to combat climate change.

Todd Dorman / The Gazette

Republican Party of Iowa leadership Friday morning voted unanimously to cancel the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll. 

The event, which had been scheduled for August 8 in Boone, had drawn commitments from only two Republican presidential hopefuls. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had already announced their intentions to skip the event, which included a presidential preference vote. 

"We set the table and the candidates weren't coming to supper," says Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann.