"We have to wake the watchdog up": Why Rob Sand's running for state auditor

The state auditor of Iowa is not a “sexy office,” former Assistant Attorney General Rob Sand told me earlier this fall. “But it’s a huge opportunity for public service, because I think that the way that it’s run right now, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for improvement.”

Sand kicked off his candidacy this morning with a website and Facebook page. He’s been tweeting for some time at @RobSandIA. His opening video is here. At the end of this post I’ve enclosed Sand’s campaign committee, including activists and elected officials from many parts of the state as well as Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and former Attorney General Bonnie Campbell.

Sand discussed with Bleeding Heartland how he would approach the job and why he is running against Republican incumbent Mary Mosiman, a certified public accountant who has served as state auditor since 2013. Although this office is not the obvious choice for an attorney, Sand considers his experience prosecuting white-collar crime “my biggest qualification” and a key reason he could improve on Mosiman’s work. Moreover, he’s not afraid to call out a “historically irresponsible” state budget.

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Branstad taps Mary Mosiman for state auditor

Governor Terry Branstad announced this morning that Mary Mosiman will be Iowa’s new state auditor. She replaces David Vaudt, who resigned last month to become chairman of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

Mosiman served as Story County Auditor for ten years before Matt Schultz hired her to run the elections division of the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. She is a certified public accountant, which Branstad said was a “major requirement” as he searched for Vaudt’s successor.

After the jump I’ve posted the governor’s press release, containing more background on Mosiman. She will serve as auditor until after next year’s elections. I assume she will become the Republican nominee for state auditor in 2014 as well. I have not heard yet about any Democrat planning to run for that office. Iowa Democrats did not field a candidate against Vaudt in 2006. Jon Murphy launched his 2010 campaign less than five months before the general election.

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Des Moines Register punts on down-ballot statewide offices

The “newspaper Iowa depends upon” won’t endorse a candidate in this year’s races for attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state, secretary of agriculture or state auditor, Des Moines Register editorial page editor Linda Fandel confirmed to me this week. Fandel told me the newspaper has been inconsistent about endorsing candidates for those offices in the past. She said limited staff time and resources lay behind the decision not to endorse this year. The Register did endorse candidates in the races for governor, U.S. Senate and all five U.S. House seats, as well as the Iowa Supreme Court retention vote, which the editors called the most important election in the state this year.

I understand limits on resources. Compared to previous election cycles, the Register’s newsroom staff is smaller, and its editorial pages contain less content. However, a newspaper that claims to have a statewide profile shouldn’t punt on elections offering such significant contrasts to voters. More thoughts on these campaigns are after the jump.

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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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Vaudt would rather risk Iowa's credit rating than do his job

State Auditor David Vaudt has been a heck of a surrogate for Iowa Republicans. Dozens of candidates have adopted his rhetoric about Iowa being on the edge of a budget “cliff.” His false assertions have been featured in television commercials for Terry Branstad, and he joined the GOP nominee for governor on a so-called “truth in budgeting” tour this summer.

There are a few problems with Vaudt’s analysis. Iowa is running a larger than expected surplus, not a deficit. Independent analysts have confirmed our state finances weathered the recession well. Those analysts include all three major bond rating agencies, which have given Iowa the highest possible credit rating.

As the Des Moines Register reports today, however, Vaudt’s management decisions may bring down that credit rating despite Iowa’s relatively strong fiscal position.

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Iowa statewide candidate fundraising roundup

The latest round of statewide and state legislative candidate financial reports are available on the website of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. For most candidates, these reports cover money raised and spent between June 2 and July 14. Some of the candidates didn’t file a June 4 disclosure report, and in those cases the latest filing covers the period from May 15 to July 14.

Fundraising numbers for Democratic and Republican candidates for statewide offices are after the jump. In addition to money raised and spent and cash on hand figures, I’ve listed the largest donors for each candidate. I am working on a post about the noteworthy fundraising figures from Iowa House and Senate candidates. John Deeth hit some highlights at the Des Moines Register blog. It’s important to remember that leadership committees for both parties will also spend a lot of money in the battleground legislative districts.

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