SHELDON—State auditor Rob Sand said if he criticizes someone, they’ve earned it.
That was the last key point Sand made during his public forum in one of the shelters at Sheldon’s City Park on the morning of Thursday, June 3. His visit with 14 people in O’Brien County came during the official’s 99-county tour.
The forum also was held before Sand’s office released a special report later that day alleging Gov. Kim Reynolds violated the state’s self-promotion law by appearing in a video last year to promote wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic.
The campaign, which was called “Step Up, Stop The Spread,” aired a video on Iowa television stations where Reynolds appears in the governor’s office to deliver a message to take steps to avoid the virus. Other Iowa celebrities such as Dan Gable, Carson King and Tom Vilsack also appeared.
Sand’s report states the facts show that the governor violated Iowa Code Section 68A.405A, which prohibits the use of public moneys for self-promotion.
Reynolds said the public awareness campaign falls under the law’s exemption for disaster emergencies.
U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) stood behind Reynolds’ decision to appear in the video.
Sand, a Democrat, is considering a run for governor in 2022.
“I haven’t decided yet,” said Sand at his stop in Sheldon.
If he does run, it would likely be against the incumbent Reynolds, who has not officially announced a bid to seek re-election in 2022.
While Sand did not touch on the report that would be released later in the day, he was critical of Reynolds throughout his forum Thursday morning as he hit on topics such as the budget, the new Iowa voting restrictions and the charter schools bill.
But Sand pointed out he is not criticizing Reynolds because she is a Republican.
“I realize I’ve said a lot of things today that were critical of the governor but let me point out where that’s coming from,” Sand said.
His office requested extensive financial details from the University of Iowa Board of Regents about its $1.165 billion partnership with a Paris-based collaborative to operate the university’s utilities systems.
He also is investigating payments made by former Scott County auditor Roxanna Moritz, a Democrat, to election workers last summer.
Sand said he investigates actions regardless of political affiliations.
“I prosecuted Democrats and independents when I was in the attorney general’s office. I was an independent when I first registered to vote,” Sand said. “The senior leadership team in our office, we have a Democrat, an independent and a Republic. The independent and Republican donated to my opponent in the campaign in 2018. I promoted them.
“If I criticize somebody it’s because they earned it. Not because of who they are or what their party is.”
One of the things that concerns Sand is the divisiveness and the “lack of interest in problem solving.”
“You see too many people in politics that are focused on serving their party and not focused on serving the public,” Sand said. “The reason I think that is one of the most important issues in front of us right now is if we can get people focused on actually serving the public, then they will start actually solving problems. Then it’s not about beating up on the other team.”
He added if the two major parties are going to end the divisiveness, it has to start with everyone, not just politicians.
“No matter what letter is behind someone’s name right now or who they voted for, just keep in mind, no one is beyond redemption,” Sand said. “We have to start treating each other in a way that reflects that. I get torn up on Twitter all of the time for saying we have to be nice to Republicans.”
One of the key criticisms Sand said he gets from Democrats on the social media platform is for defending Reynolds on her past addiction problems.
Sand said Reynolds should be applauded for getting past those addictions rather than dragged through the mud.
“I’ve pointed out addiction isn’t a joke,” Sand said. “If my grandma had done as well with addiction issues as the governor has done with hers, my life would’ve been different and so would’ve my mom’s. She deserves credit for that and praise for that. The only way this works is if we tell people in our own party to cut it out. We have to say it to the people in our own party at this point.”