What Is Auditing05-21-2023
Elaine Godfrey writes about Rob Sand, the State Auditor of Iowa. The Iowa legislature recently passed a bill limiting the auditor’s access to information. If you want to know why, listen to Sand’s answer to an elementary school student who asked him what an auditor does. It will remind us, also, of one way to respond to the relentless attacks on truth that confound our efforts to govern ourselves.
Sand had packed only a stack of fliers, and for an hour, the rail-thin auditor stood alone while most of the children gave him a wide berth. At one point, a little girl with braids approached him cautiously: “What’s auditing?” she asked. Sand was excited. “Auditing, well, it’s about finding the truth,” he told her, crouching down. “And it usually has to do with where money’s going or whether people are following the rules.” But the little girl wasn’t listening anymore. She was staring at the hot-dog tube.
Sand has spent the past two months practically begging people to care about his job. Iowa Republicans passed a bill in March limiting the auditor’s access to information, against the Democrat’s loud objections, and the governor is expected to sign it soon. People on both sides of the political aisle told me that the bill is a blatantly partisan move meant to defang the last remaining Democrat in a statewide elected position. Republicans in Iowa are so determined to crush their opponents, in other words, that they’re going after a man whose office most of their constituents don’t even know exists.
But as the lone Democrat in state office, Sand is a glimmer of hope for his party in Iowa, where the past several years have brought only defeat after miserable defeat. “They’re trying to clip his wings, but they paid him a compliment,” David Yepsen, a former chief political reporter at the Des Moines Register, told me, referring to Sand’s Republican adversaries. “He’s [got] an early leg up to be the Democratic nominee” for governor.