In “Minnesota’s recount goes south,” I inferred on the basis of circumstantial evidence that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had held private conversations with the Franken campaign during the recount. We have submitted a freedom-of-information request to the Secretary of State’s office regarding communications with the Franken campaign, asked Secretary Ritchie for an interview on the subject and submitted written questions to him via spokesman John Aiken.
The office is working on its response to our freedom-of-information request and has not declined our request for an interview. This week, however, Mr. Aiken provided Secretary Ritchie’s response to our written questions:
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For the record, Secretary Ritchie has never held, attended, or participated in any exclusive meetings with candidate Al Franken or his representatives. There were four in-person meetings with lawyers representing both campaigns and this office. Secretary Ritchie attended three of those meetings. The dates are as follows:
Friday Nov. 7 1:30 p.m. Empire Bldg. Conference Room
Friday Dec. 19 4:40 p.m. Empire Bldg. Conference Room
Tuesday Dec. 23 3:00 p.m. Room 10, State Office Bldg.
Monday Dec. 29 10:00 a.m. Room 10, State Office Bldg. *
Monday Dec. 29 2:45 p.m. Room 10, State Office Bldg. **
* (Secretary did not attend)
** (Reconvening of 10 a.m. meeting–Secretary did not attend)
There was one meeting that occurred between the Franken campaign’s staff and the office’s staff. It was a brief 15-minute meeting occurring on Friday, Jan. 2 at approximately 3 p.m. Its purpose? The Franken campaign asked this office for an opportunity to review the four rejected absentee ballot envelopes sent to this office from Hubbard County because they had not signed off on them. It is our understanding that Hubbard County did not bring the ballot envelopes to the Bemidji regional meeting as previously scheduled because it believed that the Coleman campaign had already agreed to the inclusion of these ballots and the Franken campaign had previously indicated a willingness to accept all wrongly rejected absentee ballots identified by county election officials. I should note that the Coleman campaign was also provided an opportunity to review the ballot envelopes and did so prior to the counting of ballots on Saturday, Jan. 3.
There were also three meetings conducted by phone with the lawyers from both sides and this office. The dates are as follows:
Monday Nov. 10 3:15 p.m. (Ritchie participated)
Monday Dec. 22 3:30 p.m. (Ritchie participated)
Wednesday Dec. 24 11:00 a.m. (Ritchie participated)
We get so many requests every day for interviews. With requests from bloggers, we are asking that you submit questions in writing and we will respond in a timely way.
Again, thank you for contacting this office.
Director of Communications
In short, as stated in this response, Secretary Ritchie denies that any private or ex parte communications took place with Franken during the recount. We want to add Aiken’s response on behalf of Secretary Ritchie to the record of our recount coverage.