INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — 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.
The fundraising lists, campaign emails and more than 100 "campaign calls"
entries on Bennett's calendar were obtained by The Associated Press
through multiple public records requests last week.
News of the documents led Democrats to call for an investigation.
Inspector General David Thomas confirmed he is investigating Bennett, but
declined to provide details of the investigation's focus.
Whether Bennett and his staff broke any laws will be a question for
investigators and local prosecutors. But it's clear they left valuable
information on state-owned computers.
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.
Jim Holden, Mourdock's former campaign manager, wrote an email last April
to campaign consultants and top staff to "start pillaging email
addresses," but accidentally included a party staffer on the email. The
campaign was temporarily blocked from using the list. Party leaders
ultimately decided against sanctioning Mourdock's staff.
After the AP reported last week that Bennett had downloads of the
Salesforce list on state computers, Indiana Republican Party Chairman Tim
Berry said Democratic Superintendent Glenda Ritz will have to explain how
her office fulfilled public records requests. A Ritz spokesman declined
comment on Berry's request.
Bennett and his staff have said they did nothing wrong. Bennett has said
there was no campaigning happening on his watch, nor did he order staff to
do campaign work for him.
Heather Neal, Bennett's former chief of staff, said last week that the
discovery of the fundraising lists was likely due to confusion on the part
of staff — not because of campaigning.
"Indiana law makes allowances for these minor occurrences, but we regret
the error," she said in an email.
Neal resigned as Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist last month after the
publication of emails showing that she, Bennett and a few other top
staffers rewrote the state's school grading formula to benefit a
Republican donor's charter school. Neal then took a job with the campaign
firm run by Cam Savage, Bennett's former communications director, who
downloaded one of the fundraising lists in 2009.
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
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