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Iowa Ethics Board Wants to Prevent Government Resources from Being Used for Politics

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board wants to draw clearer lines when it comes to stopping government resources from being used for political purposes. That was among the issues that were discussed during a board meeting at the state capitol on Thursday.

"One of the sticking points is that the legislators, while they’re in the capitol, I’ve been told, want to be able to use their smartphones or iPads, that are theirs, their devices, to engage in political campaign activity," said Megan Tooker, Director and Counsel of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. "Whether making campaign calls or requesting campaign contributions and the like, while they’re in the capitol. So, maybe using it in a conference room and doing that sort of thing, and so that would be prohibited under how we want the statute to read."

The current statute prohibits the expenditure of public moneys for such purposes. Using public moneys to tell people who to vote for or how to vote on a bond referendum, for example, is a clear violation. But as technology advances, drawing those black and white lines is becoming more difficult. The board is trying to draft legislation that will make specific prohibitions and get rid of the gray area that currently exists in the law.

"The challenge that we have is there`s issues where government employees or officials are using government resources, but there`s no expenditure," said Tooker. "So, if you`re a teacher or a superintendent, and you get on your government email and send out an email to people at eight o'clock at night, there`s no expenditure. Or, you`re getting on the government computer, using the government phone..."

The board says it's working on drafting a legislative proposal that would make specific prohibitions in Iowa, that would be similar to what is prohibited federally, in an effort to try and strengthen the current state law.