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In Iowa, the feds investigate a voter-fraud investigation — slowly

By   /   December 20, 2012  /   No Comments

By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog

DES MOINES – A federal and state probe into spending by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz has gone nowhere nearly four months after a state lawmaker requested it, according to officials.

The inquiry centers on  $280,000 Schultz is paying a  Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation staffer to hunt down voter fraud in the state. Since the investigator’s July hiring, eight people have been charged with voter misconduct, according to Schultz’s testimony Wednesday during a U.S. Judiciary Committee hearing.

Those eight charges average more than $11,600 per case.

“It frustrates me that you ask for what are pretty simple requests and it takes so long to get it,” said Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, who requested the investigation. “I can’t get answers out of anyone, and they continue to take more time.”

Courtney asked for the investigation in early October, alleging Schultz improperly paid the investigator with federal money aimed at educating Iowans about voting procedures, rights and technology. Schultz has disputed that the money was misused.

The request for an inquiry came on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Schultz, who also enacted emergency rules allowing his office to check the status of potential immigrants who voted but were ineligible to do so.

Schultz’s efforts are politically motivated and inappropriate, Courtney said.

“This thing looks pretty partisan, which clouds the issue,” Courtney said.

$280,000 FOR EIGHT FRAUD CHARGES: Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s spending questioned.

Officials with the U.S. Inspector General for the U.S. Election Commission and Iowa state auditor’s office say they need additional information before moving forward. Curtis Crider, inspector general for the elections commission, refused to say what specific information his office is seeking.

State officials say they can do nothing until the feds provide guidance on the spending requirements for the dollars in question.

“The federal government would ultimately decide if anything was done improperly,” said Warren Jenkins, deputy state auditor. “Rather than take up our time we are waiting for them to say here’s what you can use the money for and these are the improper uses. It’s a much better use of Iowa taxpayer resources.”

Contact Sheena Dooley at dooley@iowawatchdog.org.

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Sheena Dooley