The impeccable timing of David Vaudt

Exactly one week before election day, State Auditor David Vaudt released his report on Iowa’s film tax credit program, which Governor Chet Culver halted in September 2009. The audit found problems with about $26 million of the $32 million in tax credits awarded under the program. The Des Moines Register summarized the key findings and covered the civil and criminal cases filed so far in connection with fraudulent film tax credits.

Getting this fiasco back in the spotlight is likely to hurt Culver and help GOP candidate Terry Branstad, whom Vaudt has endorsed and joined on the stump. Branstad’s campaign seized on the chance to slam inadequate oversight of the film tax credit program. Vaudt probably also benefits from making news just before voters will see his name on the ballot. The audit featured prominently in newscasts on October 26 and was a front-page story in many Iowa newspapers the following day. According to Radio Iowa,

Vaudt, a Republican, was asked about the timing of the release of the report the week before the election.

Vaudt says the governor actually requested the investigation, and his office worked in collaboration with the Department of Revenue and the Attorney General’s office. Vaudt says they handled this report like any other and released it once the report was completed.

More like two months after completing the report. Radio Iowa posted the full report here (pdf file). On page 6, a cover letter from Vaudt and his chief deputy, Warren Jenkins, states, “Copies of this report have been filed with the Department of Management, the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Attorney General’s Office and the Polk County Attorney’s Office.” That letter was dated August 19, 2010. What’s Vaudt’s excuse for waiting nearly ten weeks to release the report to journalists?

Culver told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday, “The timing is interesting. It was purely political but [Vaudt]’s been the most partisan auditor that we’ve ever had so it’s not a surprise.” Scott Harrington, campaign manager for Democratic candidate for state auditor Jon Murphy, on 26 October asked Vaudt “to provide a detailed timeline as to how today was determined to be the appropriate date to release this report.” I’m not holding my breath until that happens.

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