The State of Iowa has started charging government officials with crimes for mismanagement and abuse of tax money. That’s right! So where have they elected to begin? The first to be charged are Tom Wheeler, Wendy Weiner Runge and Matthias Alexander Saunders, although it appears Wheeler is the only person holding an official position. These felony and misdemeanor criminal charges are all apart of the so-called Iowa Film Office scandal. The charges include allegations of theft and misconduct in office: the State prosecutor claims that their expenses were just too much.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller apparently approved the filing of the charges in this case. How far will prosecutors be willing to go with other politicians or government officials? According to the Des Moines Register, the filing of these charges has prompted other government officials to review their programs. At what point does governmental decision making become criminal? If I (as a government official) approve funding to build a bridge that goes nowhere, should I go to prison? If I expense lunch at McDonalds when Burger King is offering 2 Whoppers for $3, have I just committed a crime? By all means don’t Super Size!
All I can say is that the State better have solid evidence of something more than just poor decision-making. Any criminal charge requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to support a conviction. And I don’t think we should be filling up jails with people who don’t like Burger King.
The statutes dealing with misconduct in office are some of the vaguest in our entire criminal law. There are potentially no bounds on the filing of charges. For example, it is illegal to use public property for personal gain. There are so many absurd scenarios that it boggles the mind. Can my kids call me at work on my government phone? Can I send an email to my wife through a government computer? Can I daydream while I sit at my government desk? If you are a government official reading this, the next time your boss wants to discuss your expense reports you should consider asserting your 5th Amendment right to remain silent and call an attorney ASAP.