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IN THE NEWS: Congressman Rokita likely broke ethics laws by accessing donor database from his Secretary of State office

Repeated potential violations forced GOP to lock him out of system; actions were “well across the line” political ethics professor says

INDIANAPOLIS – Congressman Rokita likely violated ethics laws while serving as Indiana’s Secretary of State after repeatedly accessing a Republican donor database from his government office, prompting the Indiana Republican Party to lock him out of the system, several GOP officials told the Associated Press in a bombshell report out yesterday.

The allegations stem back to 2009, when according to the AP’s report, Congressman Rokita frequently logged into the party’s Salesforce database containing campaign donor and activist information from his government office. After being banned from accessing the database by the Indiana GOP, he complained until he was allowed back in – at which point violations resumed.

The AP’s report is just another example of Congressman Rokita’s habitual abuse of his public office for political purposes. In February, the Associated Press also reported on an alleged breach of ethics rules stemming from Congressman Rokita’s use of more than $3 million in public money over the last 12 years to boost his name recognition through taxpayer-funded political communications.

From the Associated Press: Indiana GOP Senate candidate Todd Rokita likely violated ethics laws while secretary of state, officials say

Senate candidate Todd Rokita likely violated ethics laws as Indiana’s secretary of state by repeatedly accessing a Republican donor database from his government office, prompting party officials to lock him out of the system until he angrily complained, three former GOP officials told The Associated Press.

The alleged ethics flap over Rokita’s use of the Indiana Republican Party’s Salesforce database during work hours occurred in 2009, as he was wrapping up a second term as the state’s chief elections official and angling for higher office.

Indiana law prohibits state employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or acting in an official capacity. It also prohibits work on anything outside official duties while on the clock, or ordering others to do so, and from using state resources for political purposes.

State party officials were alarmed when they discovered that a computer in Rokita’s Statehouse office frequently logged in to the database containing detailed campaign information on activists and donors. They froze his access to the system but restored it after Rokita complained.

His government use of the database violated the party’s user agreement, which is intended to prevent officeholders from violating state ethics law, one of the officials said.

The secretary of state’s office later asked for a list of GOP county chairmen and their contact info, according to the officials and emails obtained by the AP. But after Rokita’s office was denied a copy, an IP address tied to his government office again accessed the database, according to an email exchange between a state party official and a county party chairman.

Soon thereafter, county party chairmen began receiving mailers from the secretary of state’s office promoting Rokita’s “Rethinking Redistricting” initiative, the emails state.

Indiana law allows for minor “de minimis” crossover between public and political business. But David Orentlicher, a University of Nevada Las Vegas law school professor who specializes in government ethics issues, said Rokita’s actions were “clearly a ‘no-no.’”

Using your government staff (for political business) during their work day, while they are using government resources? This is well across the line and not a hard call,” said Orentlicher, who was formerly a Democratic state representative in Indiana and also taught at Indiana University law school.

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