Secretary of State Mark Ritchie cleared in campaign list complaint

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Complaints by Republicans alleging wrongdoing by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and his political campaign were unfounded, according to a report released by Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles today. The report found that Ritchie “did not misuse state resources” and “did not violate Minnesota law” when he provided public data to his campaign. Two Republicans, Mark Giga of the Taxpayers League and John Tomczak of Citizens in Charge, who received emails from Ritchie’s campaign, complained to Republican attack blogs, who carried the story. Calls for the investigation were made by state Reps. Laura Brod of New Prague and Tom Emmer of Delano, both conservative Republicans.

“I am pleased with the Legislative Auditor’s final report that concludes that my office acted properly in fulfilling our mission and statutory responsibility to promote participation in government,” said a written statement from Ritchie today. “I thank the Legislative Auditor and his staff for the thoroughness of their review and diligence in bringing this matter to a prompt and rightful close.”

The auditor’s report cleared Ritchie but did offer some admonishments. “At the most, it could be argued that when Mr. Ritchie gave his campaign the contact information collected by the Secretary of State’s office, he violated an implicit — but not legally binding — expectation that the contact information would be used for the stated purpose of bringing together people from all points of view to discuss civic education and engagement,” the report said.

The report also chastised Ritchie for a slow response saying that he did not “fulfill his legal obligation to make a full and timely response to a request for information from the Legislative Auditor.”

Ritchie said in a response to the report that it was simply a matter of miscommunication:

I respectfully disagree with your opinion that our office did not provide a full and timely response to your request for information. The Office of the Secretary of State received your letter of November 2 requesting a response to your questions by November 12. This office responded quickly, truthfully, and completely to those questions on November 9.

In addition, I provided the information to your office on November 20 in response to one question that dealt in part with the activities of my volunteer campaign committee. The Office of the Secretary of State is separate from my campaign activities, making it inappropriate for OSS staff to answer your questions on behalf of my campaign. This information was accurate, supplemental to the comprehensive responses provided by the OSS staff, and was in no way inconsistent with the November 9 response.

Ritchie said the whole flap is nothing more than a partisan attack.

“These complaints were clearly partisan attacks,” Ritchie told the Associated Press. “What I’ve learned is that Karl Rove politics have come to Minnesota and I need to be more sensitive to that change in the political landscape.”

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