I had found 18 candidates for the Legislature – both Republicans and Democrats – who were using their state-issued emails in contact information for their campaigns. Valley News Live took a look at both legislators and every other candidate in the state registered with the Secretary of State and found over 80 candidates who had done the same thing (full list here).
Today’s story makes two important points.
First, that using a state email for campaigns is specifically illegal. The Secretary of State’s office has said that using a state email address as a point of contact isn’t in and of itself illegal, but the moment any campaign-related emails are sent to or from that address a violation has occurred. So, it’s hard to imagine how the use of a state email address to register a campaign could not result in a violation.
Still, Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick (who inspired this scrutiny by going after Fargo City Council candidate John Strand for his use of a projector to cast a campaign message on a city water tower) insists that when he used his state email address to register his campaign it wasn’t a violation.
Not sure I follow that logic. If you email your campaign filing, it’s a political purpose and a violation. Period. It’s worth noting that Burdick has subsequently removed his state email address from his campaign information.
The second point, speaking to legislators specifically, is that while they are allowed to pay a fee which allows them to use their state email/computers for personal things they are still not allowed to use them for political purposes. Some legislators had claimed that paying the fee gave them cover, but that doesn’t seem to be the case according to Valley News Live’s reporting.