DES MOINES - The Senate Ethics Committee took no action Tuesday against the Iowa Pharmacy Association for filing a late report detailing how much the group spent on a reception for lawmakers earlier this year.
The committee voted 5-0 not to take action against the pharmacy association, which filed its report more than five months late.
The original report showed they spent $7,127 on food and drinks for lawmakers and others at the reception. An amended report filed by the association reported $2,926 being spent on the reception after expenses for a daylong conference for association members were subtracted from the original amount reported.
"It was not an intentional act on our part in an effort to try to hide expenses, it was just an oversight on our staff's part," said Thomas Temple, executive vice president and CEO of the association.
He said they have made corrections in their reporting system to ensure it does not happen again.
The missing report came to light when Gov. Chet Culver said he had attended the Feb. 10 reception, which occurred in the hours before Rep. Kerry Burt, D-Waterloo, was arrested on a drunken driving charge. Temple said all legislators were invited, and he is "fairly certain" Burt attended the reception.
Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said lawmakers plan to consider changes in Iowa law to provide more oversight and sanctions for those that do not meet reporting requirements.
"We want 100 percent transparency on any dealings with the legislature as far as the lobby is concerned," Kibbie said.
They will consider changes to streamline the process for all reports required from lobbyists and lobbying groups. That includes moving to a paperless system that Kibbie said would have more transparency and accountability.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which has advocated for reducing the influence of special interests on politics, filed the complaint against the pharmacy association.
Adam Mason, state policy organizing director for Iowa CCI, said they were not surprised by the outcome of their complaint.
He said they are encouraged by Kibbie's remarks that they planned to review the reporting requirements. Iowa CCI will continue to push for giving the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board oversight over lobbying function reports rather than the legislature, Mason said. The board enforces the state's campaign finance laws.
The legislature has been unable or unwilling to follow up when reports are filed late or not at all, Mason said. CCI's review found that 26 of the 90 reports that were filed this year were filed late. They are due five business days after the event is held.
"I think the larger concern to Iowans should be why special interest groups are wining and dining our legislators. And CCI members and other Iowans across the state are sick and tired of special interests, big-time lobbyists, buying and gaining influence to lawmakers," Mason said.