Ms. Merrill did manage to miss the seemingly obvious message, somehow, and like Ms. Bysiewicz has landed in an uncomfortable place over the issue of maintaining a politics-imbued database in her public office.
Ms. Merrill has planned a press conference this afternoon. She should announce that she is shutting down her database immediately and taking the lead in strengthening state laws against political activity in state offices by elected officials and appointed aides.
In 2010 Ms. Bysiewicz, Ms. Merrill's predecessor as
Still, Ms. Bysiewicz' compilation of the database had a decidedly political odor, with many of the names being political activists, donors and power brokers.
It added to the impression in many quarters that she was a too-eager corner-cutter -- in this case willing to use her public office, its resources and personnel, to curry favor with voters.
Ms. Merrill helped to shut down the Bysiewicz database and canceled the contract with the software provider when she became secretary of the state in 2011.
But soon enough Ms. Merrill apparently saw value in using state resources to employ this political tool -- lists of names with e-mail addresses -- in her office.
An attachment of some 5,000 names and addresses was e-mailed from the personal account of her chief of staff to her office this spring to use in the launch in June of a new electronic newsletter to a select audience from Secretary of the State Merrill.
Informing people "what we are up to" is her electronic newsletter's purpose, Ms. Merrill said in a statement responding to questions posed by The Courant's
But she's communicating mainly with her base -- Democrats, those who will be most instrumental in helping her get renominated and re-elected if she decides to run again next year.
A computer analysis of voter records determined the party affiliation of about 2,500 newsletter recipients. Of those, 94 percent were Democrats, 2 percent were Republicans and 4 percent were unaffiliated voters.
That's a representative sample of "the people I represent?"
Ms. Merrill has billed herself as -- and most of the time is -- a "good government" public servant. But this smaller-scale Merrill version of Ms. Bysiewicz's database artifice is definitely not good government.
State Republican Chairman
Ms. Merrill -- as was Ms. Bysiewicz before her -- is supposed to serve the public in an impartial manner, not skew her office communications to a narrow-band, partisan audience.
And if state law needs to be strengthened to prohibit political activity in state offices by elected officials and their appointed aides, let it be strengthened.
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