UPDATE: GOP chairman criticized for using party email list to promote business

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Indiana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Cardwell is in hot water with some in his party for promoting his own private business using email lists culled to support GOP politics.

GOP strategist Megan Robertson is one of several Republicans throughout the state who have recently received emails promoting Cardwell Home Center, a Do it Best hardware store on Indianapolis' south side, and Cardwell’s charity, People Helping People.

One of the emails advertised a “hot roofing sale” and said the hardware store was hiring. It encouraged those with “retail experience in the hardware or home center industry” to apply.

Another email, sent on behalf of Cardwell’s not-for-profit, encouraged people to donate to support Louisiana flood-relief efforts.

Robertson said it is inappropriate for Cardwell, or anyone else, to use an email list to promote their business when others, especially campaign workers and candidates, spent time putting it together for the benefit of the party.

“The list is something that’s important to keep confidential and used for the purpose for which people signed up for it,” Robertson told IBJ.

The critics believe Cardwell was using political email lists because when they unsubscribed, they received an email that showed the title of one of the lists as “Marion County WC WVC PC.” In political speak, that would seem to be a list sent to ward chairmen, vice ward chairmen and precinct committeemen in Marion County.

The Indiana GOP Party emailed a written statement from Cardwell to IBJ on Monday evening:

"Over the course of nearly 40 years in business, public service and politics, I've amassed a list of personal contacts across Indiana," he said. "As you would expect, there is overlap between those contacts. Both my business and personal contacts lists are mine and mine alone and are used for business and personal reasons. My commitment to the Indiana Republican Party is to help advance conservative solutions and help elect more Republicans to office."

Evansville GOP attorney and political strategist Joshua Claybourn, who received emails from Cardwell's People Helping People, told IBJ that while it is common between campaigns to share email lists, using a list for private purposes is “definitely unusual.”

He said it raises ethical and practical concerns, including “deflating the morale of people who are going door to door to get contacts for the Republican Party."

“For those of us who care about advancing the Republican Party, it causes a lot of concern,” Claybourn said.

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