Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a news conference on Nov. 11, 2020, and Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board will review Gov. Kim Reynolds’ coronavirus media campaign in light of allegations from Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand that it violated state law, the auditor’s office reported Monday.
Sand released a report in late May alleging Reynolds sought to “promote herself” through the taxpayer-funded, COVID-19 public awareness “Step Up, Stop the Spread” media campaign. The campaign began in November 2020.
Sand alleged the use of more than $150,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for paid TV advertisements violated Iowa’s law prohibiting self-promotion with public moneys. Reynolds spent over $500,000 of federal funding on the campaign.
Reynolds said Sand’s allegations ignore the governor’s authority to suspend laws during a public health disaster emergency.
“Auditor Sand didn’t once ask to meet with our team regarding his concern or his investigation,” Reynolds’ chief of staff, Sara Craig, said in a statement. “If he had, we would have pointed him to this essential part of the law that he clearly missed.”
Sand said his office sent a copy of the report the day before it was released.
The ethics board’s next meeting is Aug. 12. The agenda for the meeting has not been posted online, nor has the meeting’s location.
Sand issued an addendum to his initial report on June 16 in response to Reynolds’ claims that he ignored a portion of Iowa law.
The addendum adds three new exhibits to his claims, including the auditor’s office review of the Iowa code discussed in Reynolds’ response and of her 35 COVID-19 disaster proclamations.
Sand concluded the governor’s emergency authority wasn’t relevant because the governor “… had never suspended in writing the self-promotion law as part of any emergency proclamation,” the addendum said.
The governor’s office received a copy of the addendum 24 hours prior to its release. The governor’s senior legal counsel responded to the additions, stating “Our office stands by our original statement and we disagree with your interpretation of the law.”
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