A charge of illegal political advocacy is now in pending before an Iowa ethics officer who'll determine if there's enough evidence to pursue a case against Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz.
Iowa Democrats allege that Schultz, a Republican, was going beyond the duties of his office when he released a statement titled: "Huntsman Not Ready for the Big Dance." In it, Schultz theorizes on possible GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman's motives for skipping the upcoming Iowa Caucus, as has been widely reported.
"Is Jon Huntsman not coming to Iowa because he opposes ethanol subsidies or because he is afraid to explain his positions on other issues," Schultz wondered in his statement. While he criticizes the former Utah governor's anticipated absence, the press release seems less concerned with attacking the presumed candidate and more focused on making sure Iowa remains relevant. "After all," Schultz writes, "our last two presidents won the Iowa Caucus before they went to the White House."
The Iowa Democratic Party apparently keeps close tabs on the press releases coming from the Secretary of State's office because it filed an ethics complaint against Schultz. "We urge the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board to fully investigate Secretary Schultz's use of public resources for political purposes," said Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Sue Dvorsky. "Given that the primary role of the Secretary of State's Office is to administer elections, which should be conducted fairly without preferential treatment to a candidate, I hope the politicization of this office is addressed fully."
In its complaint, the IDP alleges that Shultz's release violated Iowa code § 68A.505: "The state and the governing body of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state shall not expend or permit the expenditure of public moneys for political purposes, including expressly advocating the passage or defeat of a ballot issue."
Schultz defends Monday's statement that he says was aimed at demonstrating the importance of the Iowa Caucus in the context of the entire electoral process. "As Secretary of State I defended the Iowa Caucus process and pointed out that Iowans are not single issue voters," Schultz said in a statement provided to Fox by his communications director. "At no time did I state that anyone should vote for or against the former governor. The allegations made today by the Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party are without legal merit and we expect them to be summarily dismissed."
Now that all necessary parties have been provided with copies of the formal complaint, it will be reviewed by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board's executive director and legal counsel, Megan Tooker. She will decide if the offenses alleged in the complaint violate any of Iowa's statutes, and present her findings at the Board's next meeting, which she says will take place no later than the second week of July.
Peter Doocy is currently a Washington D.C.-based correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2009 as a general assignment reporter based in the New York bureau.