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State GOP leader: No Mourdock sanctions before primary

April 19, 2012

An Indiana Republican Party leader investigating how Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's campaign used a party database said Thursday he won't face any possible party sanctions before the May 8 primary.

Jennifer Ping said Mourdock campaign manager Jim Holden likely violated a user agreement with the state party when he shared a logon to the database with an outside vendor. The party immediately caught the violation and locked the Mourdock campaign out of the database, said Ping, who chairs the party's technology and communication committee.

The tea-party backed Mourdock is in a tight race with U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and has steadily closed the gap on Lugar in the run-up to the Republican primary.

The state party's central committee voted unanimously Wednesday to not respond until after the primary, although Ping said it's unclear what sanctions the party could levy. Ping said when she presented the information to other party leaders Wednesday she was purposefully vague because she didn't want to be seen as tilting the race to either Lugar or Mourdock.

"I tried very hard to make it not be about Mourdock and Lugar," Ping told the Associated Press Thursday.

The state party's Salesforce database is a key tool that Republican candidates use to contact supporters and raise money. Mourdock was shut out of the database after his campaign manager wrote a March 14 email asking a campaign staffer and campaign consultants to "pillage" the database.

"We have a Salesforce login again. Can one of you guys login immediately and start pillaging email addresses like a Viking raider attacking a monastery full of unarmed monks?" Holden wrote in the email sent to members of The Prosper Group, an Indianapolis consultant advising the Mourdock campaign.

In the email, obtained by the Associated Press, he also instructed them to take the information, "download into our house file" and remove duplicate entries.

A Mourdock spokesman initially called the "pillage" email a "joke" when it was first reported Wednesday. He said Thursday the campaign's lockout from the party database has not slowed its momentum.

"Our grass-roots organization and large volunteer base have been preparing for our get-out-the-vote activities for the past 12 months. We will be ready come May 8," Mourdock spokesman Chris Conner said.

The state party easily caught Holden's attempt to share access to the database with outside vendors when he accidentally included the party's technology director on the "pillage" email, Ping said.

"Interestingly, the other thing he did, he also copied the e-director (Jeff Coats) on that email," Ping said with a laugh. "It's completely crazy."

The party is also looking into whether Mourdock supporters tampered with information on Lugar supporters in the database early last year while it had access via an account assigned to Mourdock's 2010 campaign for treasurer, Ping said.

"I have a concern their might have been misuse of access through their treasurer's campaign account to Lugar information a year ago," Ping said. She noted that different campaigns get different levels of access to the database and different files depending on what office they're seeking.

Conner said the campaign has not had access to the database since 2010 and denied any wrongdoing.

"Neither the campaign nor its vendors had access to Salesforce and did not tamper with information about Lugar supporters," he said.

The Lugar campaign and it's surrogates seized on the news Wednesday and Thursday. Former Party Chairman Jim Kittle, a Lugar supporter, called the attempt to "pillage" the database a "security breach" within the party.

Kittle equated it to one company trying to steal another company's client list, and played on the graphic language in Holden's email.

"That's rape, robbery and pillaging," Kittle said. "I'm glad he at least said monks and not nuns."

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