Rants, Vander Plaats weigh in on latest audit

A twin bill.  Two audits released yesterday sparked discussion among Iowa’s political class.  The first, an audit of the Iowa Film Office, did not provide many new revelations in the scandal surrounding state tax credits for film and TV productions.  It did, however, serve as a jumping off point for critics of state tax credits to businesses and for critics of Governor Chet Culver’s management of state government. (Culver, a Democrat, intends to seek reelection in 2010.)  Also yesterday, the state’s attorney general announced a criminal investigation of the Film Office is underway.

The second audit released yesterday was conducted for the US Election Assistance Commission.  It airs concerns about some of the spending Chet Culver authorized while he served as Iowa’s secretary of state (the secretary of state is Iowa’s commissioner of elections).

Two of the GOP candidates who are campaigning actively have issued statements in response to that second audit.  The first, from candidate Chris Rants of Sioux City, came to my email inbox at 10:41 p.m. last night.  The second, from candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City, came in at 2:05 p.m. this afternoon.  Read both below.

Rants: “New Audit Shows Culver’s Mismanagement of  Public Funds Started as Secretary of State”

Chet Culver hasn’t managed the public’s money well as Governor, and this new audit shows he didn’t manage it well as Secretary of State.   The US Election Commission’s audit shows highly questionable activities from no-bid contracting, to salaries paid without documentation,” said Rep. Chris Rants, candidate for Governor from Sioux City.

“The audit by the United States Election Assistance Commission shows us that the incompetence of the Iowa Film Office is not an isolated incident.   Governor Culver has no one else to blame this time.  Culver has fired others in recent weeks for mismanagement, this time it should be Culver’s job on the line. ” 

The US Election Assistance Commission Office of Inspector General – audited the administration of payments received under the Help America Vote Act by Iowa’s Secretary of State from April 10, 2003 through April 30, 2008.  The audit became public this week.  The audit was completed by Clifton Gunderson LLP, the same firm that also released an audit report on the Iowa Film Office and its mismanagement of tax credits.
The “audit concluded that the SOS did not account for and expend HAVA funds in accordance with the requirements” of the US Election Assistance Commission and federal procurement guidelines.
The audit found that then Secretary of State Culver had:
• $1.2 M in sole source contracts to three vendors, and in violation of normal state bidding and purchasing
• $2,555,274 on “questionable activities including  (Appendix C)
• $118,224 spent on activities unrelated to voter education.
• $885,573 of salaries and benefits were paid without proper documentation that the work done was HAVA related.
• $3,094,662 in accounting errors and misreported funds
The complete audit can be downloaded at
“Chet Culver’s habit of awarding no-bid contracts to the State Public Policy Group (SPPG) deserves more investigation.  Culver’s decision making certainly raised red flags with the auditors,” said Rants.   “As Governor he awarded them a no-bid contract with RIO, and now it is discovered that they were paid $763,702 on a no-bid contract when he was Secretary of State.  Culver has ignored his duty to make sure the taxpayers get the best deal possible, and instead continues to reward friends and supporters.”

Rants pointed to the specific mentions of the problem with no-bid contracts detailed on pages 10 and 11 of the audit:

“The problem was that fees for services were negotiated with the contractors and not subjected to competition and comparison with other bidders so that the SOS could ensure it got the best value or even a reasonable price. For example, the professional fee with the vendor for facilitation and management of the HAVA program was identified as $22,145 per month for the last 11 months of 2005 without identifying an hourly rate or an estimate of the hours to be worked or the number of employees assigned to the contract in order to earn the monthly fee.”
“The following amounts were paid to contractors where sole source procurements were made by the SOS without justification and where the SOS did not have procurement standards and requirements for full and open competition, affirmative steps to assure that minority firms, women’s business enterprises, and labor surplus area firms are used when possible, cost and pricing analysis, and a written code of conduct that prohibited real or apparent financial conflicts of interest. Accordingly, we question all costs associated with these contracts.”


DES MOINES – Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats issued the following statement concerning new revelations that a federal audit has found $2.5 million in questionable spending during Gov. Chet Culver’s tenure as Iowa Secretary of State as well as the opening of a criminal investigation into the growing scandal surrounding Iowa Film Office tax incentives:

“Every day we learn something new about Chet Culver’s complete and utter inability to manage taxpayer dollars.  In that light, today’s news reports that the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office may have misspent $2.5 million of $30 million shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Yet, Iowans are stunned by the magnitude of the budget problems this governor has created.  He’s a hurricane of fiscal mismanagement that has cut a wide swath across Iowa state government. 

“I’m tempted to paraphrase the late Everett Dirksen and say, ‘A million here, a million there, pretty soon, you’re talking about real money.’ But in Chet Culver’s case, Dirksen’s actual quote may be more appropriate, ‘A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking about real money.’ That’s because his overspending has created a projected budget shortfall this fiscal year of more than $900 million and at the rate he’s going will take us over $1 billion in no time.

“We need a governor with the determination and ability to rein in state spending. That’s what I’ll do when I’m elected.  It’s great that the governor chose to fire people after the Iowa Film Office and Iowa Department of Economic Development approved what could be millions in questionable expenses but the smarter thing would have been to never let the situation happen in the first place. It’s a point I’ve made time and again: Effective leaders surround themselves with effective team members. Chet Culver clearly doesn’t get it.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.