Ind. secretary of state denies using state resources for campaign

2013-06-21T15:00:00Z 2013-06-23T00:33:08Z Ind. secretary of state denies using state resources for campaignDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
June 21, 2013 3:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Secretary of State Connie Lawson does not believe she violated state ethics rules by issuing a campaign message Friday from her seemingly official "@SecretaryLawson" Twitter account.

At 10:06 a.m. Indianapolis time the Republican tweeted, "Please follow my campaign @VoteConnie for updates on our 2014 race! Please "Like" our campaign Facebook page: VoteConnie."

The Indiana Code of Ethics prohibits executive branch officials and employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or acting in an official capacity.

The terms "on duty" and "official capacity" are not defined, but most elected state officers, including former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who appointed Lawson to her post last year, have said they considered themselves "on duty" all the time in a nonelection year.

Indiana Inspector General David Thomas, who investigates reports of state ethics violations, was out of the office Friday and unable to comment.

Lawson's Twitter account description identifies her as "IN's 61st Sec. of State" and notes that "some posts to this account are by staff." In addition, the background displays 66 images of the Indiana state seal.

Valerie Kroeger, Lawson's spokeswoman, confirmed to The Times that Lawson typed and posted the message urging Hoosiers follow her campaign's social media outlets.

She said Lawson used her personal iPhone to issue the tweet and added that Lawson does not consider the @SecretaryLawson Twitter account to be an official state resource.

"It's her Twitter account; she can put whatever she wants up there," Kroeger said. "She's just letting people know that she's going to have two accounts: one for her campaign and one for her regular work and personal life."

Nevertheless, Kroeger admitted she deleted the tweet shortly after noon.

"Of course I deleted it," Kroeger said. "She wanted to drive traffic for her campaign to a different account and I just didn't want to make an issue out of it, so I just deleted it."

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, noticed the deletion and promptly reposted Lawson's original message on Twitter, the online social networking service where users read and send short messages known as tweets.

He questioned why Republican secretaries of state seem to have difficulties properly carrying out their duties as the state's chief elections officer.

"Not only does the party of Charlie White have trouble following election laws, but the woman who took Charlie White's job after he was convicted of voter fraud is now using her official state government account to promote her political campaign? One word: unbelievable," Zody said.

Lawson, 64, was a 16-year state senator from Danville when Daniels selected her March 16, 2012, to complete White's term as secretary of state following his removal from office upon conviction of six felonies, including voter fraud, perjury and theft.

She must win the party nomination at the 2014 Republican state convention to run for her own four-year term.

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