Mark Ritchie campaigned on the grounds that he’d take partisanship out of the Secretary of State office. Now Rep. Laura Brod and Rep. Tom Emmer are asking the House Government Operations Committee to investigate charges that Secretary of State Ritchie turned over names from an event to his campaign staff. Michael Brodkorb summarizes things nicely here:

“Mark Ritchie, the state’s chief election official, was accused on Monday of improperly using a list of participants in a Secretary of State civic engagement program to solicit contributions for his own political campaign.

In a complaint to the Minnesota Legislative Auditor, two people said they were asked to participate in the ‘Civic Education’ program earlier this year and provided e-mail addresses and other contact information to the Secretary of State’s office. They subsequently received an e-mail newsletter from the Ritchie campaign committee that solicited a political contribution at an upcoming fundraiser.

Minnesota Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles confirmed his office received the complaint letter on Monday and said his office would conduct a preliminary investigation.

‘It certainly falls within our jurisdiction to see whether public money or state assets were used appropriately,’ Nobles said.

It isn’t a stretch to say that candidate Mark Ritchie used information gathered at Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s public event to send out fundraising letters to people at the Taxpayers League and the Citizens in Charge Foundation.

Here’s more from Michael’s post:

Mark Giga, director of outreach for the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Jack Tomzcak, executive director of Citizens in Charge Foundation began receiving solicitations for contributions from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s campaign only after they attended a “civic education” meeting on April 2, 2007, which was organized by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s official office at taxpayer expense. Ritchie was present at the April 2nd meeting held at the Retirement Systems of Minnesota Building, where the business functions of the Secretary of State’s office are located.

Giga and Tomczak both allege they received solicitations for contributions from Ritchie’s campaign on October 22, 2007 through the specific contact information provided at the April 2nd meeting and in subsequent communications with Ritchie’s official office.

I spoke with Giga and Tomzcak last evening and they both stated they had not received fundraising solicitations from Ritchie’s campaign through the specific contact information provided at the April 2nd meeting until after the meeting.

Furthermore, at no time did Giga or Tomczak, both Republicans, provide Ritchie’s campaign with the specific contact information through which they received their solicitation for contributions on October 22, 2007.

What this means is that Mark Giga and Jack Tomzcak have pointed out how they didn’t start getting campaign letters until they attended Secretary of State Ritchie’s taxpayer event.

Here’s what the Strib reported:

In a complaint to the Minnesota Legislative Auditor, two people said they were asked to participate in the “Civic Education” program earlier this year and provided e-mail addresses and other contact information to the Secretary of State’s office. They subsequently received an e-mail newsletter from the Ritchie campaign committee that solicited a political contribution at an upcoming fundraiser.

The bottom line is that this isn’t the first time a DFL state officeholder has been charged with corruption. Drew Emmer, Michael Brodkorb and I have talked extensively about Lori Swanson’s ethical lapses. Here’s one of Drew’s posts about Swanson:

Here’s the smoking gun folks. The AP article and Swanson’s beautifully crafted televison press conference both claimed that victimized senior citizens were sold policies that prevented them from accessing their funds until their 90th birthday. That’s a blatant misrepresenattion of the truth. Either Swanson wears it or the AP wears it. But that claim, the very basis for calling American Equity a company that is a “predator on elderly Minnesotans” appears to be a complete fabrication.

Last year, Democrats ran on the “Culture of Corruption” soundbyte. This year, they aren’t saying a thing about their possible ethical lapses. This time, Mark Riga and Jack Tomzcak seem to have proof that there’s fire amongst the smoke. This is a test for Representative Gene Pelowski, Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee. If Rep. Pelowski takes the Sertich approach to investigations, then he will have proven that the DFL isn’t serious about tackling the corruption issue. Here’s a reminder of what Rep. Sertich didn’t do in the Rules Committee:

Twice, the House voted unanimously to have the House Rules Committee investigate the allegations that Lori Swanson fired at least one attorney in the AG’s office for trying to organize a union in the AG’s office. Twice, Sertich refused to even conduct a hearing or hear testimony.

Here’s the simple question that voters need to ask: Will we demand that politicians steer clear of corruption or will we say that we’re powerless when we spot corruption?

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