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Iowa gets its goat

September 06, 2011

They threw nine counts at former Iowa Film Office Director Tom Wheeler. One stuck.

A Polk County jury this afternoon cleared Mr. Wheeler of eight charges arising from his role administering the disastrous Iowa Film Tax Credit program, but they convicted him of one count. KCCI reports:

The jury found Wheeler guilty on the first of nine counts -- misconduct in office. Wheeler was found not guilty on the remaining eight counts.

The verdict was read at 1:22 p.m. The jury has been deliberating since Thursday.

Misconduct in office is a class D felony that is punishable up to five years in prison. A sentencing date has yet to be set.

Mr. Wheeler seems to be designated as the sacrificial goat for the sins of the entire Iowa political establishment that set up the film fiasco. 143 of the 150 members of the Iowa General Assembly voted to establish the program so poorly written that one agency thought it provided 50% tax credits, while the Attorney General thought it provided a 25% credit. It was signed into law by a Governor who turned administration of the multi-million dollar corporate welfare cash pinata to a single mid-level bureaucrat with no staff and whose prior administrative experience seems to have been as a film processor at Walgreens. It was overseen by a supervisor who didn't pay attention to the cash bleeding until he found out taxpayers had bought a Mercedes for a filmmaker. Some of the worst abuses were greenlighted by other agencies. The program got only glowing coverage from an embarassingly credulous local news media.

Yet only Tom Wheeler faces prison.

The moral? Don't be the bottom bureaucrat. They'll sell you out in a heartbeat.

Related: Iowa's film credit program: what we know now

Also: Des Moines Register coverage, which indicates that the plea deals with Wendy Runge and her partners at Polynation pictures were key to the one conviction.

UPDATE: More from O. Kay Henderson.

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