Iowa Auditor Questions Governor’s Spending on COVID-19 Ads |
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Democratic Auditor on Thursday accused the Republican state governor of violating a 2018 state law that prohibits state officials from using public funds to self-promotion, arguing that she broke the law by doing advertisements promoting public safety measures against coronaviruses.
Auditor Rob Sand said an advertising campaign launched by Governor Kim Reynolds in November and designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus violated the law because it featured Reynolds, who used more than $ 500,000 in federal relief funds against coronaviruses for advertisements.
Sand said his office investigated the ad campaign that was funded with money intended to pay for expanding testing capacity for COVID-19 and improving collection and communication of pandemic data.
Sand said Reynolds’ office did not seek federal approval to spend the money on an ad campaign until after it was announced and five weeks after his office requested invoices for the expenses.
He said the emails showed the state had obtained approval for the use of the funds in February.
Reynolds in a statement denied breaking the law, saying it clearly provided an exception when a governor proclaims a disaster emergency. Such a proclamation was in effect for the pandemic at the time.
“Promoting the demands and recommendations of a disaster proclamation in a public awareness campaign is a clear example of the public emergency exemption in the Iowa Image and Likeness Act,” said she declared.
In the statement, Reynolds Chief of Staff Sara Craig said: “Any competent reading of the plain language of the state code would have recognized the governor’s role in promoting an emergency order. “
Sand responded by saying that Reynolds could have suspended the law in his disaster proclamations, but did not. “Nothing contained in this statement should be construed as an exemption from any other part of the Iowa Code,” its proclamations stated.
“Therefore, the law prohibiting elected officials statewide from self-promotion through the use of public funds applies,” said Sand, a lawyer and former Iowa deputy attorney general.
This is not the first time that Reynolds has been challenged for his use of federal COVID-19 relief money.
In October, Sand accused Reynolds of misusing $ 21 million in federal virus-fighting funds for an accounting software system. Federal officials agreed, and Reynolds then returned the money. The legislature has allocated the financing of the system from the public funds of the taxpayers.
Sand concluded that approximately $ 152,000 of the $ 511,789 spent on the ad campaign was used to purchase time and placement of the video featuring Reynolds on websites and on radio and TV stations throughout. state, potentially violating the 2018 law.
The law was passed to end the use of taxpayer money for the self-promotion of politicians, such as the governor and other state officials promoting themselves on the fairgrounds of the ‘Iowa. Additionally, state treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, a Democrat, has appeared in advertisements promoting the College Savings Iowa program. During legislative debates, Democrats questioned whether Secretary of State Paul Pate could no longer distribute voter registration flyers with his name and photo on it.
The measure was pushed by Ashley Hinson, who was then the Republican state representative and is now a member of Congress. She argued upstairs in the House: “This applies to anyone, regardless of party.”
The law states that anyone who willfully rapes her must pay out of their campaign funds an amount equal to that used to fund the communication. An offender can also be the subject of a criminal charge for a serious misdemeanor.
Sand said Reynolds would have known she had a legal obligation to avoid self-promotion in advertisements because she had signed the law.
He added that “the violation appears to be willful and intentional because the Governor herself publicly announced and described the ad campaign, sat down to film parts of it, and chose to read multiple lines so that at three repeated during the video spots, all three identifying characteristics that the law prohibits (name, likeness and voice) were present. ”
Sand’s report says the Iowa Campaign and Ethics Disclosure Council should look into the matter.
Sand, who is running her first term as an auditor, is often mentioned as a potential challenger to Reynolds if she runs again. He did not say whether he would run again or run for another post in November 2022.