Former assistant attorney general runs for state auditor


Rob Sand wants to be Iowa’s next state auditor after seeing issues with identifying public corruption, government efficiency and fiscal responsibility. As state auditor, Sand will be the “taxpayers’ watch dog.”

Danielle Gehr

A former prosecutor wants to be the “taxpayer’s watchdog” as he runs for Iowa state auditor. 

Rob Sand, 35, has spent the bulk of his career in financial crime prosecution and sees issues with the current leadership at the State Auditor’s Office. Sand, a Democrat, feels partisanship needs to be left out of the job and the taxpayers need to be made a priority.

“That’s somebody’s paycheck that they’re handling, it’s a little piece of somebody’s sweat, their labor, you know,” Sand said. “We have to treat that with the reverence that it deserves and I know there’s people in the office who care a lot about that, but I think the office needs leadership that cares a lot about that too.”

Sand is a native Iowan from Decorah, where he said his first job was chasing chickens. In high school, he developed a passion for public service and went on to graduate from Brown University and the University of Iowa law school. 

Sand served as the assistant attorney general after being appointed in 2010. He spent his first 18 months focusing on tax credit fraud cases and then moved to the Area Prosecution Division, “a small group of prosecutors who take on many of the state’s toughest cases,” according to his website.

During his career, he led an investigation into fixed lottery tickets amounting to nearly $25 million in total face value. He also prosecuted an investment advisor involved in a 20-year-old Ponzi scheme which originated in New Guinea. 

Sand also has worked with law enforcement when prosecuting crime and is concerned that no one under current State Auditor Mary Mosimann shares this background. 

“From the reports I’d been reading, it seemed clear that they didn’t and in fact they didn’t,” Sand said. “Having seen the way the State Auditor’s Office operated, [I] realized doing something there where I could help them fix the way they are doing public corruption investigations would be one of those opportunities.”

Sand moved from prosecuting those responsible for homicides and sexual predators to major financial crime and public corruption after wanting to have more of a positive impact. 

“Criminal prosecution is very dark and when I realized that only dealing in darkness everyday was starting to change me, I started to look for something I could do that would have more of a positive impact and obviously, having seen the way the State Auditor’s Office operated, realized doing something there where I could help them fix the way they’re doing their public corruption investigations would be one of those opportunities.” 

One of the ways he sees himself making this positive impact as state auditor is by helping save tax payers’ money. 

Sand said the State Auditor’s Office is required to provide efficiency recommendations by Iowa Code 11.4 every time they audit regent institutions, cities or counties. These would point out where the entities can save tax payer money by reducing waste and improving efficiency. 

As Iowa State and other universities in Iowa face budget cuts, these efficiency reports could help combat rising tuition. The State Auditor’s Office is meant to help entities like the Board of Regents save money whether that be asking if they use LED lightbulbs or something more nuanced.

“So, I look at  that and I think, ‘Wow, what an incredible opportunity to do something positive as opposed to just mitigating bad things,'” Sand said. “And that’s one of the things that really got me excited about the race is the chance to change the office with new leadership.”

As far as experience, Sand doesn’t have much of a background when it comes to investigating high education spending, but he will have people on his team to make up for it. 

He did say he knows Iowa State has done a good job of keeping administrative spending low. 

Sand said one of the important aspects of this job is being honest and a straight shooter. When students make decisions at the end of high school, a major factor is cost. 

“I think it’s incredibly problematic when we have someone who’s not only not doing the efficiency piece, but also not being a straight shooter when it comes to the state of the budget,” Sand said. 

Over the last two years, Iowa State faced $11.4 million in budget cuts after budgets deemed balanced were unbalanced. This legislative session, with another unbalanced budget, there is a proposed $14.2 million cut to higher education. 

Sand said Mosimann was more concerned with her party affiliation rather than the tax payers when she called the state budget stable. 

“I think it’s very important that we have people who care about many things more than they care about their party affiliation,” Sand said. “Truth being one of them, integrity being one of them, accountability being another, where you have certain issues that yes I am a Democrat, but I’ve also prosecuted Democrats and I’m proud to have done that.” 

He said this non-partisan attitude will help gain trust of Iowans since he will be objective in his decisions and when he says the budget is a mess, they will know the budget must be a mess. 

If Sand is elected, he doesn’t see himself changing much of the structure of the office. His only concerns are with how Mosimann is running it. 

“I think that generally speaking, the people in that office who work on the financial audit are very competent and do a good job,” Sand said. “I think the question in that office really is related to leadership rather than the people who are occupying it.”