The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

January 9, 2014

Iowa Senator: Congress must confirm election board

DES MOINES — An Iowa senator asked a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday to confirm appointees to a federal election commission so a decision can be made about whether Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is properly using money for voter-fraud investigations.

Schultz, a Republican, last year agreed to pay the Iowa Division of Criminal investigation up to $280,000 over two years to investigate voter fraud.

Sen. Tom Courtney, a Democrat, questions whether the use of the money sent to Iowa as part of the Help America Vote Act funding was legal. Courtney said the funds are intended for education about voting procedures, voter rights and technology, and not for “a voter fraud goose chase.”

Courtney said he sent a letter Wednesday to U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, who chair the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. The committee oversees nominations for a variety of federal posts and has held a hearing as recently as last month on nominees for the Election Assistance Commission, which administers Help America Vote Act money.

“Without action by your committee, Iowa Secretary of State Schultz is free to thumb his nose at taxpayers and the currently toothless federal watchdog — the U.S. Election Assistance Committee — because he knows there are virtually no limitations on how he spends the funds,” Courtney wrote in the letter.

Schultz continued to assert his use of the money for investigations is appropriate.

“These funds have been used properly according to the law, and no federal or state agency has ever stated otherwise,” Charlie Smithson, legal counsel to Schultz, said in a statement Wednesday.

Courtney asked the state auditor in October to review Schultz’s use of the money. The report released Dec. 19 by Chief Deputy Auditor Warren Jenkins concluded that the federal program “does not specifically address whether the investigation of complaints and potential criminal activity is an allowable expenditure ... “

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