Sunday, September 15, 2013

Files On Computer Servers In Bennett's Office Included Valuable Info From GOP's Vaulted Salesforce Database

Supporters of State Treasurer Richard Mourdock's failed Senate bid last year will recall the brouhaha that was triggered after his campaign manager, Jim Holden, mistakenly included a state GOP staffer on an e-mail that urged the pillaging of data from the GOP's vaulted Salesforce database, that includes valuable information on GOP donors, including personal contact information. Mourdock's campaign was temporarily blocked from accessing the database while the Indiana State Republican Party conducted an investigation to determine what, if any, action should be taken against Mourdock's campaign.

The AP's Tom LoBianco reports that campaign-related information found on computer servers in former Education Supt. Tony Bennett's office included valuable data from the Salesforce database. While it's illegal to maintain campaign-related information on state computers, the data found on the computer servers at the Department of Education is now considered public information accessible by anyone.
With just a few clicks, staffers in former school Superintendent Tony Bennett’s office made one of the Indiana Republican Party’s most valuable tools a public document — free to anyone.
The master fundraising list is extensive, containing contact information for thousands of Republicans from grassroots supporters and precinct committee leaders to top-dollar lobbyists and donors. Cellphones, personal emails and other valuable notes are included in the spreadsheet, two versions of which were found on Department of Education servers . . .  
Among the files were two downloaded from the GOP’s Salesforce database, one dubbed the “Indiana Republican Party’s Red Meat List”; another includes an entry titled “Mitch’s ‘Red Meat’ List.” The database is a crucial element of any campaign, as demonstrated last year when party leaders launched an investigation into whether then-Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s campaign wrongly downloaded information . . .
One file, called the “Big Hitter List” includes valuable inside knowledge about how to reach out to some of the state’s biggest donors. Bennett’s former fundraising director, Julie Southworth, left notes about how much Bennett should ask for and how much the donor gave in 2008.
One note explains how to contact Dean White, the northwest Indiana hotel tycoon who has given more than $4.6 million to Republicans in the last 15 years. Another note on southwest Indiana fundraiser Steve Chancellor points out he gave $1,000 to Bennett in 2008, but that Bennett should “ASK for more!”
Whether careless or criminal, Bennett and his staff have unwittingly given Indiana residents a tremendous look behind the scenes, as well a chance to get in the game — if they’re willing to file a records request.
No Republican can credibly defend the actions of Bennett and his top staffers in being so foolish as to use state computers to store sensitive campaign-related information. Republican leaders who are trying to blame Bennett's successor, Glenda Ritz, for his transgression because she shared the information with a reporter are missing the mark. What Bennett and his staff committed is a theft of government resources for his personal campaign activities, and it's a ghost employment violation for anyone on his staff who spent any time working on their campaign-related activities while performing their regular state job duties. Incredibly, former Bennett staffer Heather Neal says state law permitted these "minor occurrences" that she attributed to "confusion" on the part of staff.  “Indiana law makes allowances for these minor occurrences, but we regret the error,” she said in an email. This is a slam dunk case. If Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry's fails to act on these matters, he will be guilty of dereliction of his duties as county prosecutor to enforce the law.


Covenant60 said...

Where can we look at it?

Pete Boggs said...

Exposure of private citizens to public information requests is an issue.

Anyone recall the state rep (John something) who was reprimanded for working on campaign mailers while the GA was in session?

Gary R. Welsh said...

You're referring to Jon Elrod. He was rebuked by Speaker Bosma for working on signing campaign letters on the House floor and handing them to a House staffer to drop off for mailing at the post office in the State House. There was no allegation that State House resources were used other than the act of the staffer carrying the envelopes from the House floor to the post office two floors below.

Pete Boggs said...

Yes GW, that's the incident I was trying to recall.