In 2006, Mark Ritchie was endorsed by the Secretary of State Project, aka SOSP. The SOSP website disappeared for a couple years but they’re back now. They disappeared, I believe, because they got a horrific reputation. They’re working hard to polish that reputation. First, let’s examine their history according to what their website says:

What We Do:
The Secretary of State Project was created by concerned citizens to provide an easy-to-use, low-cost vehicle for online donations to reform-minded Secretary of State candidates and incumbents in key battleground states. Since 2006, our thousands of supporters across the country have helped our endorsed candidates win races in 10 out of 12 states, including Minnesota, California, Montana, Missouri, Oregon, West Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Here’s SOSP’s criteria for endorsement:

Criteria for Endorsement:
The Secretary of State Project evaluates candidates based on their positions on election issues. Specifically, affirm that you support the following principles:

1) No election official should play a partisan role in an election he or she will play a role in administering. All election officials must conduct their responsibilities openly and objectively to restore public confidence.

2) Our elections must be verifiable and secure. Every vote cast must be counted by a system that is auditable with a verifiable paper trail and all voting materials, including ballots and voting machines must be secured at all times.

3) Universal, automatic, and portable voter registration should be the goal of every state. Our election officials should endorse state and federal legislation in support of this ultimate goal.

4) Election officials should not place onerous requirements on or attempt to intimidate non-partisan voter registration groups.

5) Voter suppression and election fraud defined as the intent to cast a ballot illegally will not be tolerated. Efforts to suppress the vote through onerous requirements, such as unconstitutional photo ID laws, must be opposed.

6) There should be equal access to the ballot box for all citizens. Every citizen must have equal access to locations, adequate machines and well-trained election judges. Efforts to raise voter participation of citizens who often face special barriers, such as students, military personnel, low-income people and minorities, including Election Day Registration, should be endorsed and actively supported.

A couple things jumped off the page in their criteria, starting with this:

Efforts to suppress the vote through onerous requirements, such as unconstitutional photo ID laws, must be opposed.

This type of indoctrination isn’t welcome. First, SCOTUS ruled in 2008 that Photo ID is constitutional. PERIOD. END OF DISCUSSION. As this NY Times article notes, this wasn’t the typical 5-4 ruling:

In a 6-to-3 ruling in one of the most awaited election-law cases in years, the court rejected arguments that Indiana’s law imposes unjustified burdens on people who are old, poor or members of minority groups and less likely to have driver’s licenses or other acceptable forms of identification. Because Indiana’s law is considered the strictest in the country, similar laws in the other 20 or so states that have photo-identification rules would appear to have a good chance of surviving scrutiny.

The ruling, coming just eight days before the Indiana primary and at the height of a presidential election campaign, upheld rulings by a Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which had thrown out challenges to the 2005 law.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced the judgment of the court and wrote an opinion in which Chief John G. Roberts Jr. and Anthony M. Kennedy joined, alluded to, and brushed aside, complaints that the law benefits Republicans and works against Democrats, whose ranks are more likely to include poor people or those in minority groups.

In 2010, 2 years after SCOTUS ruled Photo ID constitutional, the SOSP is still arguing that it’s unconstitutional. What type of organization argues against the Supreme Court? The answer, I think, lies in this bit of information:

Who We Are:

We have thousands of dedicated members across the country. Join us!

Co-founder Becky Bond works for a socially progressive mobile telephone company based in San Francisco. She serves on the board of the New Organizing Institute* and*.

Co-founder Megan Hull was a Project Director for Democracy Reform at the Center for Civic Participation*. In 2004, she was a Co-Director of the coalition that investigated polling place problems and vote counting irregularities in Ohio and New Mexico.

Co-founder Michael Kieschnick is a social entrepreneur based in San Francisco. He is also a board member of the League of Conservation Voters, among other progressive organizations.*

The League of Conservation Voters keeps its donors secret. Apparently, transparency isn’t a requirement for the SOSP. Thanks to this post by Trevor Loudon, it’s apparent that avoiding conflicts of interest aren’t a high priority for SOSP-endorsed secretaries of state:

Mark Ritchie, Al Franken and Mark Dayton are listed as members of the Wellstone Action Advisory Committee as are several leftist heavy hitters including;

  • Julian Bond A former president of the NAACP, Democratic Party activist and long time member of the Marxist leaning Democratic Socialists of America
  • Heather Booth A leading Democratic Party activist and Democratic Socialists of America supporter
  • Robert Borosage A trustee of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies
  • Peter Edelman A leading Democratic Party activist and Democratic Socialists of America
  • Keith Ellison A Democratic Minnesota congressman and member of the Democratic Socialists of America/Institute for Policy Studies founded Congressional Progressive Caucus
  • Russ Feingold A recently defeated Wisconsin Democratic Senator
  • Frances Fox Piven A Democratic Socialists of America member and Institute for Policy Studies affiliate. Piven was an endorser of Progressives for Obama and an initiator of the famous Cloward-Piven Strategy which aimed to bring about socialism through deliberately overloading and bankrupting state welfare systems
  • Tom Harkin A far left Institute for Policy Studies affiliated Democratic Senator from Iowa
  • Jim Hightower A “progressive” activist and Progressives for Obama endorser
  • Gerald McEntee President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and a Democratic Socialists of America supporter
  • Walter Mondale A former Democratic presidential candidate from Minnesota
  • Antonio Villaraigosa The far left Democratic mayor of Los Angeles and a former member of the Obama Transition Team

Mr. Ritchie hasn’t said anything about his close association with Sen. Dayton. He’s said plenty, though, about the likelihood that Sen. Dayton would prevail in the recount he’s scheduled to supervise:

Former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer today called on Secretary of State of Mark Ritchie to disavow deeply inappropriate and highly partisan writings which appeared on his official Twitter account concerning the Emmer-Dayton canvass and recount proceedings. In addition, former Secretary of State Kiffmeyer called on Ritchie to add a Republican lawyer to his staff, given the well-known partisan makeup of his office. “As Minnesota’s chief elections official, Mark Ritchie has a special obligation to remain non-partisan in the canvass and recount process. Sadly, recent posts from Ritchie on his official Twitter account demonstrate that he’s already made up his mind about the gubernatorial recount. It is clear that Ritchie has lost the ability to remain neutral and objective. On his official Twitter account, Ritchie both voices approval for a statement that ‘9,000 votes is a mighty steep hill to climb and the Emmer folks know it’ and heralds a Pioneer Press story entitled, ‘Recount poses big challenge for Emmer.’ Can you imagine a referee in the NFL publicly stating that the Vikings have no chance in a game he will be officiating in a few days? It is incomprehensible and Ritchie’s conduct is way out of bounds. “Instead of taking sides and handicapping the prospects of various candidates, Secretary Ritchie should be working to ensure that all votes lawfully cast are counted. Secretary Ritchie must disavow his deeply inappropriate partisan writings. In addition, Secretary Ritchie would be wise to add a Republican lawyer to his staff to balance his deeply partisan office which includes the well-known Democratic attorney, Bert Black. Minnesotans deserve no less.”

Based on Mr. Ritchie’s statements about the Emmer-Dayton recount, his silence about a conflict of interest with Sen. Dayton and his being endorsed by a radical progressive group who thinks that Photo ID is unconstitutional despite a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling that Photo ID is constitutional, Minnesota voters should be worried that their legally cast votes might be nullified thanks to Mr. Ritchie’s friendship with Sen. Dayton. Forgive me if I don’t think SOSP-endorsed secretaries of state are above ethical difficulties. Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “Ritchie’s Conflict of Interest, SOSP’s Radicalism Exposed”

  • Gretchen Leisen says:

    Thanks, Gary for your insight into the Dayton-Emmer recount process. Yesterday I had the privilege of observing the voting machine validation process in Benton County. It was enlightening and interesting. My impression is that in the majority of MN counties, there will not be a problem with the recount process and all vote tallies matched the original tallies from election night. The election judges verified Maywood Tp and Sauk Rapids Precinct 3 for two contests: MN Governor and US Rep 6A.

    We were shown the vault where the ballots have been sealed since Nov. 2nd. I stayed to observe the resealing process before returning the ballots to the vault.

    Everyone was respectful of the judges and their task. No pencils or pens were allowed at the judges’ tables. There were 6 observers including myself at this process.

    The problem with Mark Ritchie’s SoS office is that in 2008 they did not enforce equally critical criteria for three known liberal counties where the population results in large vote tallies. I have heard it said that the process for the Coleman-Frank recount was fair; but such a judgement could only be legitimate if the same observer watched all the counties’ processing of the recount. No one could have done that, and so we were left with each county setting their criteria. The out-state counties for the most part were undoubtedly accurate in the recount, but the Metro counties had problems in the judging of controversial ballots and their validity, in that they were unobjective and were more forgiving to questionable ballots who favored Franken; and equally less forgiving about Colemen votes.

    The Benton County officers explained their new process for absentee ballots, and it sounded fair and secure, as well as efficient. These were the newer rules established following the 2008 election. It sounds like a very good process and mimics the process Iowa has used for many years. The problem remains, however, how sesrious are the Auditors in Hennepin and Ramsey and St. Louis counties in enforcing the newer rules? Anything that allows a personal judgement eventually gets back to honesty, integrity, and the bias of the county officer in charge of the process. I doubt we can expect Mark Ritchie to care whether the above mentioned counties are really honest in their counting process.

  • eric z says:

    Ritchie is the Secretary of State.

    Who do you claim is better suited to doing the Secretary of State’s job?



    Get real.

  • Gary Gross says:

    That’s a bit melodramatic, Eric. How about a senior member of the SecState’s office who doesn’t serve on the advisory board of Wellstone Action & doesn’t have ties to Mark Dayton???

  • eric z says:

    Ritchie was elected.

    He faced voters again.

    He was reelected.

    That should not be ignored.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Eric, the issue isn’t whether Ritchie was re-elected is irrelevant. If, at any time, it’s determined that he can’t be impartial and/or can’t reach an impartial, objective-based decision, he should recuse himself. PERIOD.

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