Iowa’s accounting firms follow the law, not political opportunism

What the Supreme Court did NOT do was find that we broke the law. But the Republican Party put that in a press release, which they shouted at the media. The media fell for it.

Twice in the past four years, the Democratic National Committee has asked my office to turn over allegations of misconduct against Republican Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds. Guess what: we didn’t give them anything.

Why? Because Iowa law requires the accounting firm to “keep confidential” allegations of misconduct and information received during an audit. That information is protected, whether the person asking for it wants to attack the alleged offender or the tipster letting us know where to point our flashlights.

The people who passed this law considered confidentiality so important that there is a section in the Iowa Code that states that people who work in accounting can be fired if they violate this law. These tipsters, some of whom are afraid to speak out against powerful interests, need to know that we will protect their identities so they can provide information without fear of retaliation.

So you may understand the frustration I felt when the Court was sued for trying to comply with our obligation not to turn over confidential data that might lead future whistleblowers to think we were selling it. The lawsuit stemmed from a public records request filed by the same conservative who, when I ran for office in 2018, claimed that if elected, I should legally be impeached, period. We responded the same way we do for anyone requesting open documents: we turned over what we could and withheld documents protected by law.

The first judge who heard the case ruled that we were following the law. On appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court ordered a “re-do,” ruling that it did not have sufficient evidence to make a decision, sending the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. What the Supreme Court did NOT do was find that we had broken the law. But that’s exactly what the Republican Party put out in a press release, shouting at the media. The media fell for it. We appreciate the corrections from two media entities in Iowa, but these days complete lies can travel the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

There is another aspect to the lawsuit: whether or not we should have turned over an email sent from a private account, about completely public information, that was already public and already in the hands of the person who had the lawsuit tightened. You might think this is a silly reason to file a lawsuit – to get a copy of something you already own – but some lawsuits are all about politics.

So we will soon be making our case in another courtroom about why we were legally required to withhold this data, both the emails from our office and the allegations about the governor. I will also continue to fight to protect whistleblowers. And because the truth doesn’t mind being questioned, I will be at a town hall in your community in the coming months. The dates, times and locations of all 100 are already on our website. Come out to compliment me, criticize me or give me a confidential tip. If you’ve read this far, you know you can trust us to keep the information confidential.

Rob Sand is Iowa’s state auditor.