Iowa Auditing Bill Threatens Accountability and Rule of Law


Kelsey Kremer/The Iowa Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds gives the Condition of the State address to members of the Iowa Legislature inside the House Chamber, on Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Iowa State Capitol, in Des Moines.

On May 11, 2023, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds received a new bill that holds massive implications for Iowa’s future. The bill in question, SF478, gives the appearance of a boring and mundane bill. Described by most Republicans as protection for Iowan’s privacy against auditing, the bill has been portrayed by those politicians as an insignificant government fix. The reality of the situation is simple: SF478 is a Trojan horse—a threat to the rule of law and a power grab that damages our republic.

The process of auditing is one of the most vital aspects of our government. Comparable to a police officer, the state auditor is elected by the people and investigates our government for financial mismanagement, abuse and corruption.

In its simplest form, this bill ensures the auditor is unable to stop these transgressions in any department, office, or board/commission without permission from our governor Kim Reynolds. The ramifications of this are staggering. It would promote crime and corruption inside our government, remove our officials from public accountability, and disempower Iowan voters.

The state auditor, who investigates financial fraud in the government, can now be denied access to the tax returns of those under investigation. These tax returns are vital pieces of evidence in auditing investigations. It is the equivalent of a detective being barred from public security footage out of concern for the privacy of a potential criminal.

Referred to as “The greatest pro-corruption bill…” and “worst perversion of checks and balances in Iowan history” by Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, there is a question as to why this bill even exists. Other than claims of protecting privacy, we can only look for clues.

In the 2021, an investigation conducted by State Auditor Rob Sand discovered the misspending of nearly $500,000 intended to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic. The misspent funds were reported as intentionally hidden from authorities and spent on the salaries of staff members. In 2020, nearly $21 million dollars of federal COVID-19 aid were illegally used to finance a new IT system for the government. Alone, these events raise minor suspicion but combined with other statements given by Reynolds, speculation begins to grow.

After the investigations into mismanagement and possible corruption Reynolds announced she wanted a “State Auditor who won’t sue me every time I turn around.” 

The only reason for this bill would be to further empower sitting government officials by circumventing due process of law.

“Notice in the bill that… our ability to go to court still exists if we’re looking at local entities… But the Iowa Legislature and Governor just exempted themselves without… local government,” Sand said in a public meeting.

Despite Iowan’s electing the state auditor, very few have knowledge of this bill or the issues brought with it. By strengthening those already in positions of power and removing the ability for our auditor to act, Iowan’s power over the government is weakened. Now sitting on the governor’s desk this bill will likely be signed into law, however, it didn’t have to be this way.

While this soon-to-be law is weakening our control over the government and becoming a successful power grab for those in power, we can prevent things from getting worse. All it takes to stop these setbacks is a politically active, scrutinizing and informed public, one that starts with you. Protest, send emails to your senators, go vote or spread the word. All these steps can help resist this erosion of justice. All it takes is the first step.

In the words of John Kennedy, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security for all… We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we deserve.”