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Lawsuit alleges State Auditor Rob Sand violated open records law

A lawsuit filed by the Kirkwood Institute alleges the auditor's report on the "Step Up, Stop the Spread" social media campaign had political overtones.

DES MOINES, Iowa — State Auditor Rob Sand is the taxpayer's watchdog, providing transparency on where Iowan's tax dollars are spent. Now, a lawsuit against the Democrat alleges he is not as transparent as he claims to be in his work. 

It all stems from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' "Step Up, Stop the Spread" social media campaign. Sand's office accused the governor of using state money to publicize her own image in June 2021.

However, his office is accused of not taking into account a clause making clear the COVID-19 campaign was an exception due to the public health emergency. 

Sand's office released a report addendum later that month, saying:

"In January 2021, this Office reviewed Iowa Code Chapter 29C.6 and the Governor’s Emergency Proclamations. See Exhibit 2. After consideration of these materials, the Auditor concluded that Iowa Code Chapter 29C.6 was not relevant to the report because the Governor had never suspended in writing the self-promotion law as part of any emergency proclamation, as 29C.6 requires."

According to the lawsuit filed by the Iowa nonprofit Kirkwood Institute, the auditor's report had political overtones.

The lawsuit details the nonprofit's concerns of how the news of the report had spread and seemed to amplify a "politically sympathetic blogger and a similarly aligned Associated Press reporter." 

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The nonprofit wanted any emails between Sand's office and the blogger and between Sand's office and the reporter. The lawsuit claims the auditor's office withheld less than a dozen emails. 

Kirkwood claims the emails don't meet standards for Sand's office to withhold them. The nonprofit now wants the court to order Sand to turn them over.

Sand's office provided the following statement about the lawsuit:

“This lawsuit comes from the same attorney who wrote a baseless legal attack about me prior to the 2018 election, which was used to support baseless political attack ads.”

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