Lawson mum on staffer who sent political tweet

2013-06-24T14:15:00Z 2013-06-25T06:46:04Z Lawson mum on staffer who sent political tweetBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | Secretary of State Connie Lawson is taking no public action against the employee who issued a campaign message on the Republican's office Twitter account.

"We did determine that it was a staff member that did it on Friday trying to drive campaign activity away from Secretary Lawson's account," said Valerie Kroeger, Lawson's spokeswoman. "At this point, it's a personnel matter and we're going to deal with it internally."

Kroger repeatedly refused Monday to identify the Lawson staffer who posted the message at 10:06 a.m. Indianapolis time. Though Kroeger told The Times on Friday that just she, Lawson and Chief of Staff Davey Neal regularly tweet on behalf of the secretary of state's office.

"We're looking into it to see exactly who all had access, so that way we can figure out who is going to have access as we move on," Kroeger said. "We're taking steps to tighten control over her Twitter account."

Kroeger, who said she didn't tweet the message but acknowledged removing it after about two hours, said "miscommunications" were behind her erroneous statement that Lawson personally issued the message urging Hoosiers to "Vote Connie" and follow her campaign's Twitter and Facebook accounts.

On Saturday, Lawson denied that she wrote or posted the message.

State ethics rules prohibit executive branch officials and employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or acting in an official capacity.

A spokeswoman for the Indiana Democratic Party confirmed it is looking into filing a complaint with the Inspector General, who investigates state employee ethics violations.

Had the message been posted 10 days later, it might have fallen under a new law that takes effect July 1 making it a misdemeanor crime for a state employee to use state resources to advocate the election or defeat of an electoral candidate.

A second offense would be a Class D felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

State Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, was co-sponsor of House Enrolled Act 1157. Landske said the new law is intended to show the seriousness of misusing state assets for campaign purposes.

"We just simply wanted to codify it and make it official that an employee is not supposed to be campaigning on work time, on the state's time, or using state-owned property for a campaign," Landske said.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Lawson secretary of state on March 16, 2012, to finish the term of Republican Charlie White, who was removed as the state's top elections official following six felony convictions for 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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