The quiet death of a Republican 2018 campaign lie

Rejecting a leading Republican talking point from the 2018 campaign, the board that regulates the accounting profession in Iowa has confirmed State Auditor Rob Sand can do the job Iowans elected him to do.

Last year, State Auditor Mary Mosiman and her allies repeatedly argued that Sand was not qualified to be state auditor, because he is not a certified public accountant. Republicans had used the same line to discredit the previous two Democratic nominees for the office, even though no language in the state constitution or Iowa Code sections covering the state auditor requires the office-holder to be a CPA.

Matthew Rezab of the Iowa Falls Times Citizen fact-checked the claim and found multiple sources in the accounting community disagreed with Mosiman’s reading of state law. Several Republicans who have served as county attorneys likewise concluded the office of state auditor would be able to issue audits even if its elected leader had a different professional background.

Yet Mosiman continued to assert that Sand would cost the state millions of dollars a year, because under his leadership, the state would have to outsource all audits to private firms. Sand countered that more than two dozen CPAs already worked in the auditor’s office, and his experience as an attorney prosecuting white-collar crimes would bring a needed perspective to the job. His campaign aired radio and television commercials featuring CPAs who attested to his qualifications.

After Sand won the election, the Iowa Society of CPAs suggested a working group could “examine and propose solutions” related to whether the State Auditor’s office remains a CPA firm, as defined by Iowa Code Chapter 542. Earlier this month, the Iowa Accountancy Examining Board signed off on the idea of a working group to “explore potential changes” to state law and administrative rules, with the goal of “clarifying” certain issues.

But the board also concluded that under its reading of current law, the state auditor need not be a CPA to lead the office. Key passage from the January 4 letter the accountancy board’s executive officer Robert Lampe sent to Sand and the director of the Iowa Society of CPAs:

Although a difficult issue, and on the advice of legal counsel, the Board is presently of the view that the Auditor’s Office is not a CPA firm within the meaning of Iowa Code chapter 542. The Board is also of the view that, as the law is presently written, the continued operation of Auditor’s Office absent a permit to practice issued by the Board neither violates the laws or rules administered by the Board; nor does it subject individual CPAs or LPAs continuing to work for the Auditor’s Office to criminal penalties or regulatory scrutiny by the mere fact of their continued employment and performance of their duties in a manner that is otherwise consistent with applicable professional standards.

Sand highlighted the letter in a January 31 news release, which also noted that his office “issued its first audits” this past week. Those reports covered O’Brien County and the cities of Buckeye, Harvey, Hartwick, Steamboat Rock, Dallas Center, and Stanhope.

Will Iowa Republicans drop their baseless attacks on Sand’s qualifications now? If history is any guide, they won’t let facts get in the way of what they see as effective rhetoric. Last fall, for the fifth election cycle in a row, the GOP paid for ads accusing some lawmakers of voting to fund heated sidewalks, even though Democrats never voted to spend money on heated sidewalks, nor were state funds used for such sidewalks anywhere in Iowa.

Appendix 1: January 31 news release from the State Auditor’s office

During the 2018 election season, Rob Sand’s political opponents claimed that electing a non-CPA as State Auditor would mean the Office could no longer audit, and that it would cost taxpayers millions. Sand said that was not true. The Iowa Accountancy Examining Board has now announced that the ability of the Auditor’s office to perform its audit work is not impacted by the professional background of the person elected to lead it.

Specifically, the board writes that Sand’s status as an attorney, as opposed to a CPA, “neither violates the laws or rules administered by the Board; nor does it subject individual CPAs or LPAs continuing to work for the Auditor’s Office to criminal penalties or regulatory scrutiny by the mere fact of their continued employment and performance of their duties in a manner that is otherwise consistent with applicable professional standards.”

“I campaigned on truth, I told Iowans I was telling them the truth, and now I’m glad to see that reaffirmed by an independent body like the IAEB,” said Auditor Sand.

In addition, the Auditor of State’s Office issued its first audits this week.

Appendix 2: January 4 letter to State Auditor Rob Sand and Cindy Adams, director of the Iowa Society of CPAs

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