The centerpiece criminal trial in the Iowa film tax credit fiasco gets underway in Des Moines today. Former Iowa Film Office Director Tom Wheeler faces felony misconduct in office charges for his role in the disastrous program.
For Mr. Wheeler, the trial will be a harrowing experience, but for the rest of us, it promises comedy gold. The prosecution will try to lay the blame for this multi-million dollar disaster at Mr. Wheeler's feet. The defense will try to spread the blame around state government like a rogue honey wagon. His superiors at the Department of Economic Development will get splattered, certainly, but the manure hose will also be pointed at the Department of Revenue. From the Des Moines Register:
For example, Wheeler said, emails in his trial will show he sought guidance on various expenditures from the state Department of Revenue, including in-kind, deferred or sponsorship transactions in which no cash changed hands. Many industry experts later said such transactions should not have qualified.
These money-for-nothing deals led to the issuance of millions of dollars of transferable tax credits by the Department.
The State Auditor's report outlining the disastrous administration of the program shows that Mr. Wheeler has plenty to answer for. But felonies? The trial looks like an effort to blame the fiasco on one inept bureaucrat. Whatever Mr. Wheeler's failings, he had a supervisor. He was appointed by a Governor, and his program was authorized by an almost unanimous Iowa General Assembly. None of these people face criminal charges, yet they bear the ultimate responsibility for the disaster. If bureaucratic ineptitude is a crime, they should just lock the state office buildings from the outside at night.
Other coverage: AP story
Tax Update film credit coverage:
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