Iowa’s governor, Republican Kim Reynolds, signed a new law on Thursday evening that will significantly restrict the ability of the state auditor — Iowa’s top watchdog — to perform his duties. State Auditor Rob Sand (D) responded with a hard-hitting statement calling the legislation “the worst pro-corruption bill in Iowa history.”
“It will allow insiders to play fast and loose with Iowans’ tax dollars because those very same people will be able to deny the Auditor’s Office access to the records necessary to expose them,” said Sand. “As Assistant Attorney General, I prosecuted criminal cases for seven years. This is akin to letting the defendant decide what evidence the judge and jury are allowed to see.”
In the weeks before Reynolds signed the bill, Sand traveled all over the state to drive opposition to the bill. And, in one interview earlier this week, he described it as an assault on values “essential to our Constitution” that would make Iowa “an outlier by far” in terms of transparency. Sand also warned it is part of a troubling undemocratic trend that is happening all over the nation.
“This is a fundamentally American thing. Some people had this crazy idea a couple hundred years ago that we didn’t need a king or a queen telling us what to do and, in fact, that was too much power for one person,” he added. “So, we should have checks and balances and here they are removing them. That should be alarming to everybody.”
The legislation, Senate File 478, would prevent the auditor from accessing any information that could be deemed private. It also would strip the auditor’s power to issue subpoenas to government entities that are being investigated. Instead of going through the courts, those claims would go through a board of arbitration composed of two members named by the offices where records were being sought and one member appointed by the governor.
“The idea that, once an audit is underway, that the auditor is going to be denied access to records is fundamentally opposed to the very purpose of an audit,” Sand said.
So, essentially, as Sands and others see it, Iowa and Kim Reynolds are embracing corruption and cronyism over transparency and justice.