Mark Ritchie

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Mark Ritchie
Mark Ritchie 1.jpg
Minnesota Secretary of State
Former officeholder
In office
January 2, 2007 - January 5, 2015
PartyDemocratic
PredecessorMary Kiffmeyer (R)
Compensation
Base salary$89,877
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 2, 2010
First electedNovember 2006
Campaign $$712,452
Term limitsNone
Education
Bachelor'sIowa State University (1971)
Personal
Date of birthDecember 21, 1951
Place of birthGeorgia
Websites
Office website
Donald "Mark" Ritchie (b. December 21, 1951, in Georgia) was the Democratic Minnesota Secretary of State from 2007-2015. Ritchie was first elected to the statewide position in on November 7, 2006 and was sworn into office on January 2, 2007. He won re-election in 2010.[1] In June 2014, Ritchie announced that he would retire from the secretary's office after finishing his second term instead of seek re-election again in 2014.[1] He was succeeded by Democrat Steve Simon on January 5, 2015.[2]

Ritchie's time in the secretary's office was marked by efforts to enhance voter participation and crack down on business identity theft. In September 2013, Ritchie used his authority as the state's chief elections officer to make Minnesota the 15th state in the nation to allow online voter registration.[3] In 2011, as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2011, Ritchie made business identity theft a top priority. He convened a national business identity theft task force to address the growing incidence of reported business identity theft crimes.[4] As the result of the work of that task force, NASS partnered with Identity Theft Protection Association (ITPA) to create and launch www.BusinessIDTheft.org, a resource for educating business owners about business identity theft. The website includes information on risk management, theft prevention and victim assistance.[5]

A January 2013 article in Governing named Ritchie as one of the top state Democratic officials to watch in 2013.[6]

Biography

Ritchie was born in Georgia but raised in Iowa. In 1971, he graduated from Iowa State University with his bachelor's degree.

Before becoming secretary of state, Ritchie's private and public sector experience reflected his interests regarding environmental sustainability, trade systems and voter outreach, particularly in relation to rural communities. Much of his work was done through the establishment and management of non-profit organizations, such as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Global Environment and Trade Study (GETS). Richie spent about 20 years serving as president of the IATP, a Minnesota non-profit research and advocacy organization whose mission is to promote sustainable food, farm and trade systems for the state's rural communities; Meanwhile, GETS, which he helped found, studied complex linkages between international trade and environmental sustainability.

Highlighting his efforts to increase voter participation, Ritchie established the League of Rural Voters. In the midst of the 2000 presidential election, he helped form with cooperation from 52 farm and rural activists the Family Farmers' National Alliance for Nader/La Duke, which lent its support to Ralph Nader's failed presidential campaign.[7] In 2004, Ritchie was asked to lead National Voice, a national coalition of nonpartisan organizations from across the country. Four-hundred Minnesota organizations under National Voice formed the Minnesota Participation Project, which, in turn, led the national media campaign, NOVEMBER 2, to help find new ways to get people involved in the elections.

Ritchie's intersecting passions for civics and trade can be traced back to the 1980s, when Ritchie served as a high-ranking official in the Minnesota Agriculture Department.[8] During his tenure at the department, Ritchie's reputation in civic society and the international trade community was tested by a controversy where he obtained and sent confidential trade documents to members of Congress. According to a Star Tribune story, the United States trade representative at the time said that the documents were classified and that their release could have hurt the country's negotiating position with other nations.[9] Ritchie, however, denied in the article that the documents were secret and said he had obtained them legitimately.[10]

Education

  • Bachelor's degree, Iowa State University (1971)

Political career

Minnesota Secretary of State (2007-2015)

Mark Ritchie was elected in November 2006 and sworn into office on January 2, 2007. He was re-elected in 2010 and retired after his second term.[1] He was succeeded by fellow Democrat Steve Simon on January 5, 2015.

NASS

Ritchie was president of the National Association of Secretaries of State during 2011 and was a member of the NASS executive board from 2010 to 2015.[11] While serving as President of the NAAS, Ritchie convened a national business identity theft task force to address the growing incidence of reported business identity theft crimes. As the result of the work of that task force, NASS partnered with Identity Theft Protection Association (ITPA) to create and launch www.BusinessIDTheft.org, a resource for educating business owners about business identity theft. The website includes information on risk management, theft prevention and victim assistance.[12]

Controversies

Online Voter Registration

In September 2013, Minnesota became the fifteenth state to allow online voter registration.[3] Ritchie authorized the system to go online without first addressing the Legislature, who then became concerned that Ritchie had overstepped his boundaries. Both Republican and Democratic members of the legislature worried about the privacy concerns associated with collecting online information and publicly criticized Ritchie for not presenting the idea for their review first.[3] Deputy Secretary of State Beth Fraser addressed concerns in an open letter to Republican leaders David Hann, Kurt Daudt, Senator Scott Newman and Representative Tim Sanders.[13] The Secretary of State’s office “has repeatedly added to the online tools available to voters — tools that similarly were authorized under existing law and about which we have never heard a complaint,” Fraser wrote. “Online voter registration and online absentee ballot applications are the logical next step.”[13]

“This tool is saving costs, minimizing inaccurate records and reflects the integrity of the state’s strong voting system,” Ritchie said in a statement. After the website MnVotes.org was launched with the new registration feature, nearly 500 people had updated their registration information and 110 new voters had registered within the first two weeks.[14]

ACORN and Tides Center

See also: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

In the midst of the highly controversial recount for the 2008 senatorial race between Republican incumbent Norm Coleman (R) and former-SNL writer/personality Al Franken (D), the media, both statewide and nationally, largely ignored the fact that Ritchie, who chaired the nonpartisan Minnesota Canvassing Board overseeing the recount, received an endorsement in addition to campaign donations from the Minnesota ACORN Political Action Committee in 2006. One article on his campaign website promoted the "fine work ACORN did in Florida to pass a constitutional amendment to raise the state's minimum wage."[15] ACORN, which also endorsed Franken, boasted about playing a major role in the 2008 elections, claiming to have "registered 43,000 new voters, which it describes as 75 percent of the state's new registrations. Franken's margin of victory in the Senate race was razor-thin: 312 votes out of about 3 million cast."[16] Over 25 voting precincts recorded more votes than there were registered voters, votes that were overwhelmingly in favor of Franken.[17]

Additionally, "Ritchie blocked an investigation of ACORN ... despite evidence of 'a number of irregularities' in Minnesota voter records," according to Jeff Davis, president of Minnesota Majority, a nonpartisan legislative watchdog organization.[18]

Mark Ritchie, who received nearly $23,000 from the Secretary of State Project in 2006, giving a press conference

Ritchie and his brother own and operate a "'sustainable coffee' company called Headwaters, Inc., which does business with the public using the name Peace Coffee." Headwaters, Inc. conducts its operations out of the same office as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit organization of which Ritchie is president. The company has received more than $20,000 from the Tides Foundation.[19]

Founded in 1976 by California activist and liberal philanthropist Drummond Pike, the Tides Center and its tangled web of offshoot operations has "established itself as an important funding nexus for movements and causes aligned with leftist ideology."[20] The Tides Center also has ties to the embattled ACORN organization. Wade Rathke, who helped found ACORN, "has been a Tides director from the start and chairs Tides, Inc."[21] Rathke's brother, Dale, laundered more than $900,000 from ACORN, a crime that was never reported to law enforcement; "the Rathke family was allowed to work out a deal to repay the money," so as to keep the incident quiet and out of the public eye.[22]

Elections

2014

See also: Minnesota secretary of state election, 2014

Ritchie was eligible for re-election, but he said in a June 2013 statement that he would not seek a third term as secretary of state in 2014.[1]

2010

See also: Minnesota Secretary of State election, 2010
2010 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[23]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Mark Ritchie 81.8%
     Democratic Party Dick Franson 18.2%
Total Votes 389,377
2010 Race for Secretary of State - General Election[24]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Mark Ritchie 49.1%
     Republican Party Dan Severson 45.6%
     Independent Jual Carlson 5.2%
     Write-In 0.1%
Total Votes 2,035,365

2006

2006 Race for Secretary of State - Democratic Primary[25]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Mark Ritchie 71.4%
     Democratic Party Dick Franson 28.6%
Total Votes 265,457
2006 Race for Secretary of State - General Election[26]
Party Candidate Vote Percentage
     Democratic Party Approveda Mark Ritchie 49.1%
     Republican Party Mary Kiffmeyer 44.2%
     Independent Bruce Kennedy 3.7%
     American Independent Party Joel Spoonheim 3.0%
Total Votes 2,137,643
Endorsements
See also: Secretary of State Project

The Center for Public Integrity reported in September 2008 that Ritchie received both the endorsement and financial assistance (nearly $23,000) from the Secretary of State Project, a below-the-radar 527 political organization whose purpose is to "wrestling control of the country from the Republican Party" through the process of "removing their political operatives from deciding who can vote and whose votes will count," namely the office of secretary of state in many cases.[27][28]

Controversies

Use of contact information

In 2007, Ritchie was accused of "improperly using a list of participants in a secretary of state civic engagement program to solicit contributions for his own political campaign."[29] He initially denied knowing how his campaign received a list of email addresses of participants in the state-sponsored program who were sent emails asking for campaign contributions. A complaint was raised by two Republican activists who attended the office's publicly funded event for having their email addresses turned over to Ritchie's political operation.

Shortly following an investigation conducted by the Legislative Auditor of Minnesota, Ritchie admitted, "he 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."[30] State Republican leaders, believing Ritchie had betrayed the public trust and raised questions concerning his ability to serve as a nonpartisan overseer of state elections, called for his resignation as secretary of state.[31]

The State Legislative Auditor, though admitting that Ritchie had not broken any laws in his campaign's use of the email list because it was public data, chastised him for not fulfilling his legal obligation to make a full and timely response to a request for information.[32]

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Ritchie is available dating back to 2006. Based on available campaign finance records, Ritchie raised a total of $712,452 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 12, 2013.[33]

Mark Ritchie's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Minnesota Secretary of State Not up for election $38,631
2010 Minnesota Secretary of State Won $314,529
2008 Minnesota Secretary of State Not up for election $34,586
2006 Minnesota Secretary of State Won $324,706
Grand Total Raised $712,452

2006 and 2010

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Mark Ritchie's donors each year.[34] Click [show] for more information.


Personal

Ritchie currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife, Nancy Gaschott. They had one child together, Rachel Gaschott Ritchie, who was killed by drunk driver at the age of 20.[35]


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See also

Contact Information

Minnesota

Capitol Address:
180 State Office Building
100 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Saint Paul, MN 55155-1299

Business Phone: (651) 296-2803
Elections Phone: (651) 215-1440
Toll Free Phone: (800) 627-3529
Fax: (651) 215-0682
E-mail: secretary.state@state.mn.us

External links

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, "NEWS RELEASE: Secretary of State Ritchie Announces He Will Not Seek Third Term," June 4, 2013
  2. Minnesota Secretary of State, "About" accessed January 6, 2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Washington Post, Minnesota feuds over online voter registration, October 17, 2013
  4. Minnesota Secretary of State, "About Mark Ritchie," accessed April 17, 2012
  5. HometownSource.com, "Press Release: NAAS launches theft resource website," April 17, 2012
  6. Governing, "State Democratic Officials to Watch in 2013," accessed January 25, 2013
  7. Nader 2000 - Family Farmers Endorse Nader
  8. University of Minnesota, "June African Development Center Commerce and Community Conversation," June 4, 2013
  9. Star Tribune, "Mark Ritchie discussed on Pig's Eye," accessed December 3, 2007 (timed out)
  10. Star Tribune, "Ritchie resumes a familiar place in political hot seat," July 13, 2012
  11. Minnesota Secretary of State, "About Mark Ritchie," accessed April 17, 2012
  12. HometownSource.com, "Press Release: NAAS launches theft resource website," April 17, 2012
  13. 13.0 13.1 Scribd, Sec of State Response Letter, October 15, 2013
  14. Star Tribune, Minnesota's new online voter registration system challenged, October 11, 2013
  15. The American Spectator, "SOS in Minnesota" 7 Nov. 2008
  16. The Corner on National Review Online, "Sen. Al Franken (D., ACORN)" 29 Sept. 2009
  17. Gun Owners of America, "ACORN, MoveOn.org Could Receive Billions of Dollars" 2 Feb. 2009
  18. American Courthouse, "Keeping An Eye On The Secretary Of State Project" 1 Oct. 2009
  19. True North, "Blind Squirrel Finds ACORN" 14 Oct. 2009 (dead link)
  20. Activist Cash, "Tides Foundation & Tides Center" (timed out)
  21. Green Tracking Library - Drummond Pike
  22. The Union, "ACORN crime covered-up by Drummond Pike" 20 Aug. 2008
  23. Minnesota Secretary of State - 2010 Secretary of State Primary Election Results
  24. Minnesota Secretary of State - 2010 General Elections Results
  25. Minnesota Secretary of State - 2006 Primary Election Results
  26. Minnesota Secretary of State - 2006 General Election Results
  27. Center for Public Integrity: Paper Trial Blog, "Election '08: Scoring Secretary of State Seats for Dems" 8 Sept. 2008
  28. American Spectator, "SOS in Minnesota" 7 Nov. 2008
  29. Star Tribune, "Election official allegedly used list improperly" 29 Oct. 2007
  30. Star Tribune, "Ritchie now says he gave email list to campaign" 20 Nov. 2007
  31. Star Tribune, "Secretary of State should resign, GOP chair says" 21 Nov. 2007
  32. Office of the Legislative Auditor - Investigation: Use of Contact Information
  33. Follow the Money, "Career fundraising for Mark Ritchie," accessed July 12, 2013
  34. Follow the Money.org, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015
  35. MinnPost, "Secretary of State Ritchie Q-A: ‘I have a long list of things I want to do before leaving'," June 10, 2013


Political offices
Preceded by
Mary Kiffmeyer (R)
Minnesota Secretary of State
2007–2015
Succeeded by
Steve Simon (D)