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Dems’ campaign newsletter had state seal

Three Boise Democratic candidates sent voters a campaign newsletter emblazoned with Idaho's official state seal, even though the secretary of state's office discourages people from using the seal on anything but official state business, the AP reports. Sen. Elliot Werk, Rep. Sue Chew and candidate John Gannon distributed the mailer by email Monday to south Boise voters. It aims to highlight what the candidates say are Republican ethics transgressions — and Democrats' push for stronger ethics laws. The email also asks for donations for two of the candidates. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Idaho Democrats use state seal for campaign email
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three Boise Democratic candidates sent voters a campaign newsletter emblazoned with Idaho's official state seal, even though the secretary of state's office discourages people from using the seal on anything but official state business.

Sen. Elliot Werk, Rep. Sue Chew and candidate John Gannon distributed the mailer by email Monday to south Boise voters. It aims to highlight what the candidates say are Republican ethics transgressions — and Democrats' push for stronger ethics laws. The email also asks for donations for two of the candidates.

But Tim Hurst, deputy secretary of state, says Idaho's seal should only be used for official business. Using it for political purposes could imply Idaho's endorsement for a candidate or issue, when none exists, he said.

"Electing them is not a state program," Hurst said, adding there is no penalty for abusing the policy.

According to state law, it's the Idaho secretary of state's duty "to affix the great seal, with his attestation, to commissions, pardons, and other public instruments to which the official signature of the governor is required."

"We're the keeper of the great seal, so we put out some guidelines," Hurst said, adding this isn't the first time this has happened. "We ask them not to use it, and they normally take it off."

Late Monday, Werk acknowledged that sending the emails with the state seal was inappropriate and pledged that future mailings to voters wouldn't include them.

"I take full responsibility for this oversight. The state seal was included inadvertently as Rep. Killen transitioned out of the team," Werk said. "The use of the state seal will be discontinued to ensure that there is absolutely no confusion in the future."

In the email, the three candidates discuss, among other things, a proposed independent ethics commission for Idaho state government. Democrats pushed unsuccessfully for such a body in 2012.

"In the last few years scandals have piled up as a single, entrenched political party fails to restrain its members," they wrote. "This is not a partisan issue. Given the same conditions in other states, Democrats have gone down the same scandal-ridden road as the Republicans are in Idaho."

The email appears political. Beneath the official seal, it encourages voters to contribute money to Werk's and Chew's campaigns.

In 2011, Chew was previously admonished by House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, for raising opposition to public schools chief Tom Luna's disputed reforms via a mass mailing from her state email account.

She didn't return a phone call seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Rusche said it's important for lawmakers to refrain from using the seal for election purposes.

"I don't believe it should be used for electioneering," Rusche said Monday. "People get something with the state seal, and they think its official business."

Gannon, a lawyer and former state legislator, also couldn't be reached for comment.

Each of the Democrats has a contested election in November, with Werk running against Judy Peavey-Derr, Chew facing Republican Chad Inman and Libertarian Mikel Hautzinger, and Gannon up against Republican Kreed Ray Kleinkopf and independent Gus Voss.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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