Three years later, Denise Merrill, tests same line crossed by Susan Bysiewicz

Three years ago, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, got in hot water for using state resources for a political database and newsletter. Now current Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill may have crossed that same line. The circumstances are slightly different but, at least at this point, there seems little difference and distinction.

Jon Lender reports in the Hartford Courant: Merrill Uses State Office To Send Newsletter To Democratic Activists <read>

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has been using her taxpayer-funded office to maintain a computerized list of names and email addresses of thousands of Democratic activists and campaign contributors — to whom she sends a monthly newsletter touting her accomplishments.

Her actions are reminiscent of widely condemned practices by her predecessor in the office, Susan Bysiewicz. Bysiewicz’s campaign for state attorney general failed in 2010 amid a scandal over a politically tinged “constituent database” — which Bysiewicz maintained in her office and utilized to send a similar newsletter of her own…

Merrill, who is up for re-election next year although she hasn’t declared her candidacy, says her newsletter is intended to keep her constituents informed.

But the list of recipients, obtained by the Courant through a public-records request, is densely packed with names of political donors and members of the state’s Democratic establishment — the kind of people a candidate wants to stay in touch with in order to win renomination and to raise campaign funds.

Reminiscent of three years ago, the main operative is a Chief of Staff:

Most of the names were sent to Merrill’s office in April from the personal email account of Shannon Wegele, Merrill’s $97,850-a-year chief of staff. Wegele assisted with Merrill’s 2010 campaign, and previously had been an aide on her staff in the state legislature, where Merrill served as House majority leader..

Merrill, who is typically available to the press, declined to talk to The Courant Friday and instead responded to questions in a written statement relayed through Harris. As to the origin of the list, Merrill’s statement said:

“The initial list of our e-newsletter recipients includes people I have known personally for a long time throughout my career in public service. Since then we have also added other groups of people to the list as well, people of varying political affiliations who have been involved in programs we have run so far in my term as Secretary of the State. As we continue to build the list I’m sure it will reflect the political and geographical diversity of those interested in the mission of this office.”

UPDATE 10/15:

Merrill holds press conference, ends newsletter: CTNewsJunkie: Merrill Ends Controversial Newsletter, Joins Republicans In Calling For Audit <read>

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