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Ethics Board: Iowa governor broke no laws with COVID-19 ads

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s Ethics Board has found that Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds didn’t violate any laws when she appeared in a series of taxpayer-funded ads last fall promoting coronavirus public safety measures.

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board voted unanimously Thursday to find Reynolds did not violate a 2018 state law that prohibits statewide elected officials from using public funds for self promotion.

I owa State Auditor Rob Sand had accused Reynolds of the ethical violation, saying the ad campaign she launched in November was used to promote her own image when she appeared in several of the ads encouraging mask-wearing.

Sand, a Democrat, had said the ad campaign that was funded with money that was intended to pay for expanded testing capacity for COVID-19 and improve collection and reporting of data about the pandemic. He also said Reynolds’ office didn’t seek federal approval to spend the money on an ad campaign until after it was announced and well after his office requested invoices for the spending.

On Thursday, the Ethics Board found that the law includes an exception for when a governor proclaims a disaster emergency, which Reynolds had done for the pandemic.

Reynolds’ office lauded the Ethics Board’s ruling, with Reynolds’ spokesman Pat Garrett, saying in a statement that Reynolds “was right and her actions were supported by both Iowa law and common sense.”

Sand said the ruling declared “open season” on using taxpayer money for politicians’ self promotion.

“It is a sad day for Iowa taxpayers and for the rule of law when a board full of the governor’s own appointees decides she can do what the law against self-promotion with taxpayer funds clearly makes illegal,” Sand said.