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Friday, July 28, 2006

Is Mike Hatch Using His Office to Campaign?

There is a good question raised in a press release from Independence Party, posted at Polinaut.

Another Question for Hatch What's up with Letterhead?

It remains well known in political circles that incumbent office holders have an immense advantage over challengers when it comes to holding their job while campaigning. This perk becomes even more glaring when incumbents are challenged by a candidate from the private sector. Quite simply, a private sector employer would require a detailed accounting of time dedicated to a political campaign and would not allow corporate assets and staff to be diverted toward campaign activities.

In light of Mike Hatch's recent complaint about the Star Tribune filed with the Minnesota News Council, one question becomes conspicuously apparent:
How much can a candidate rely on his public office to support his political campaign efforts?

In his letter to the Minnesota News Council, Mr. Hatch pointed out four separate times that the questioning initiated by the Star Tribune and the basis of his complaint was related to the governor’s race. He did so with Office of the Attorney General (OAG) letterhead instead of campaign letterhead. This fact also begs further questions:

1. Did OAG staff help in preparing this complaint (despite its date of Sunday 7/23/06)?

2. Was OAG equipment (computers, printers, etc.) used in preparing this political campaign document?

3. Was the use of OAG letterhead designed to use the power of the OAG to intimidate the news media from pursuing further political questions of Mr. Hatch?

4. Is OAG spokesperson Leslie Sandberg also serving as a de facto spokesperson for the Hatch for Governor Campaign?

5. Are OAG staff members also involved in the Hatch for Governor Campaign? If so, how do they publicly account for their time away from OAG while engaging in campaign activities?

"It is time to recognize that strong line must be drawn between a candidate's campaign and the public office that the candidate currently holds" opined Jim Moore, Independence Party State Chair. Moore continued, "Minnesotans should receive the full efforts from all public servants they hire. All time away from public service for campaigning should be fully disclosed and the difference in pay should be promptly returned to the public coffers." "More importantly, the assets of the elected office held by a candidate should never be used for campaign purposes." Moore concluded.

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The same question can be raised for Governor Pawlenty. Perhaps that's the reason that the IP rather than the Republican Party, raised this issue with Mike Hatch.

Tom Scheck at the MPR blog Polinaut comments:

Hatch said he wrote the News Council complaint on a Sunday from his computer at home. He says the News Council letter was sent on attorney general letterhead is because the data practices request and Star Tribune e-mail were made to that office. Hatch said he's very careful about using office resources for campaign stuff.

The issue of using a state office for a political purposes is likely to be an issue throughout the campaign since an incumbent governor and acting attorney general are running for governor.


I'd expect the IP to continue to raise this issue. Neither the DFL nor the Republicans will raise the issue on their own since both parties are in glass houses on this one.

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