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Iowa auditor questions governor’s spending for COVID-19 ads, claiming she violated self-promotion law

Rob sand Reynolds

DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL/AP) -- Iowa's Democratic auditor accused the state's Republican governor of violating a 2018 state law that prohibits statewide elected officials from using public funds for self-promotion.

Auditor Rob Sand argued Thursday that Gov. Kim Reynolds broke the law by making ads promoting coronavirus public safety measures.

Sand says the ad campaign launched by Reynolds in November violated the law because it featured Reynolds, who used more than $500,000 of federal coronavirus relief funding for the ads.

"In the case of the “Step Up, Stop the Spread” media campaign, moneys from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were used to fund ads that appeared on websites, in newspapers and on television and radio stations across Iowa," Sand said in the report. "Public moneys were used to pay for online and televised ads containing the Governor’s voice, image, and name."

Sand says a state ethics board should review the expenditure.

Reynolds responded to the audit with a release on Thursday. Governor Reynolds denies she violated the law, saying it clearly provides an exception for when a disaster emergency is proclaimed by the governor.

“I’m proud of the "Step Up, Stop the Spread” public service announcement,” Gov. Reynolds said. “I felt it was important for me and other leaders to address Iowans during the height of the pandemic. And the law clearly allows it.”

The Governor's Office said that the campaign promoted requirements and recommendations of the disaster proclamation such as social distancing and mask-wearing, claiming that was an exemption to the law prohibiting self-promotion.

Sand then issued another clarification in response to Reynolds' statement, saying that Reynolds could have suspended the law in one of her disaster proclamations, but she did not.

The Governor's Office also said that Sand never asked to meet regarding the investigation, to which Sand said that the report was sent to them on Wednesday, a day before public release, and issues could have been addressed in that time period.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand's report:

Stop-the-Spread-Report_FINAL

Gov. Kim Reynolds' response to the report.

Rob Sand's response to Gov. Reynolds' statement:

Auditor-Of-State-Office-Statement-on-Governor-Reynolds-Response-to-the-Investigation-of-the-COVID-19-Media-Campaign

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