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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Self Inflicted Wound

Re Mark Ritchie:


Ritchie said he had personally provided a copy of the directory to his campaign and requested that those on the list get a copy of his campaign's civic engagement newsletter. It has been distributed to about 12,000 individuals and groups whom he described as active in civic life in the state.

He said his campaign maintains a donor and potential contributor list that is separate from the newsletter list.

The newsletter "is distributed as an information source on civic engagement in Minnesota, not a vehicle for solicitation,'' Ritchie said.

But the Oct. 22 newsletter invites recipients to an upcoming fundraiser and links to Ritchie's campaign Web site for anyone wishing to donate to "help me cover my campaign related expenses for this year.''

Ritchie, who ran on a platform of keeping state election policy and politics separate, said he is taking steps to ensure that people can easily remove their names from the newsletter mailing list and that future editions will contain only news, not solicitations.

"The campaign should have checked with the groups and individuals who listed themselves in this public directory to make sure they wanted to receive my civic engagement newsletter,'' Ritchie said.

I haven't seen anyone defend what Ritchie did. Instead of allowing subscription opt outs, he should simply have his campaign subtract the email addresses of those who signed up at his civic engagement event.

Mark Ritchie was highly critical of Mary Kiffmeyer for the partisan way her office handled itself - and rightly so. So far, he seems to be as partisan - just the other way round.

Ritchie will alienate swing voters with this sort of thing.

We'll get endless posts from the Drama Queen on the topic of Mark Ritchie. Jim Boyd called it a big goof. It's been reported to the legislative auditor, and the auditor is investigating, and that's where I'd like to see it go right now.

Ritchie gave his campaign a list of participants in a state-sponsored civic-engagement event; his campaign then used the list to email those participants copies of Ritchie's campaign newsletter, which included a solicitation for political contributions. Then, when two Republicans complained, Ritchie appears to have simply lied: He initially said he did not know how the participants' email addresses got in the hands of his campaign. Now he acknowledges that he personally provided the list of addresses and requested that each person on it get a copy of his newsletter.

In the scheme of things, Ritchie's original transgression was not huge. Apparently the list was provided to a bunch of people and could be used by any of them for just about any purpose. But Ritchie isn't just anybody, and his excuse that the newsletter was mostly apolitical doesn't hold water. When he, in his capacity as a constitutional officer for the state of Minnesota, gathers people for a publicly funded event, those who attend should not need worry that signing a register will bring them unsolicited material from candidate Ritchie -- or from any candidate for that matter. If preventing that requires a rule change, Ritchie should see to making it, soon. As for his own campaign, he should make clear that this sort of transfer of material from Secretary of State Ritchie to candidate Ritchie won't happen again.

Which leaves the secondary offense, the lie. As so often happens in politics, Ritchie compounded a relatively minor lapse in judgment by lying about it. For that, candidate Richie will surely, and deservedly, be called to accounts by political opponents.