Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who orchestrated the recount that gave Democratic challenger Al Franken a lead some six weeks after incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman appeared to win by 725 votes on Election Day, has extensive ties to both the ACORN organization now under federal investigation for vote fraud, and to MoveOn.org ultra-liberal kingmaker George Soros.
In 2006, ACORN endorsed Ritchie in his bid to become secretary of state, and Ritchie also received a campaign contribution that year from Soros.
Indeed, Ritchie has credited his own political career in large part to an obscure, Soros-funded group called the Secretary of State Project (SoS), whose express purpose is to seed state election bureaucracies nationwide with partisan activists -- Ritchie among them -- who are strategically positioned to influence the outcome of close recounts like the one now underway in Minnesota.
The SoS Web site lauds Ritchie as “arguably the most progressive secretary of state in America,” and states: “Thanks to SoS Project donors, Minnesota’s Mark Ritchie – a true champion for Democracy – was able to defeat a two-term incumbent Republican by less than 5 points. We helped close the gap and make the difference with cable television ads targeting women and seniors.”
Nor does Ritchie downplay the role of the Soros-funded nonprofit in his own election win.
“I want to thank the Secretary of State Project and its thousands of grassroots donors for helping push my campaign over the top,” he states on the partisan political site.
Newsmax has learned that contributors to Ritchie’s 2006 campaign, which made him the No.1 official in charge of impartially supervising Minnesota recounts, is a veritable Who’s Who of partisans seeking to alter the outcome of elections, including:Soros. He donated $250, but perhaps more importantly, he funded organization’s essential to promoting Ritchie’s candidacy.Anne Chasnow, who donated $150. Chasnow is a longtime voter registration activist who listed her employer as ACORN.Drummond Pike, a well-known rainmaker for leftist organizations with extensive ties to ACORN, who along with a family member donated $500 to Ritchie.Deborah Rappaport, who donated $250. Her Rappaport Foundation underwrites progressive causes nationwide.James Rucker, the former director of grass-roots mobilization at MoveOn.org, and reportedly a co-founder of the Secretary of State Project. He donated $250 to Ritchie’s campaign.
The link to the SoS Project is a major reason Washington Times editor Peter J. Parisi has described Ritchie as a “hyperpartisan Democrat” – not exactly the calling card most states would seek in their chief election official.
SoS is funded in part through Soros’ contributions, according to Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten. Kersten describes Ritchie as a “poster boy” for SoS, and Ritchie has proudly endorsed that organization’s efforts to sway the outcome of electoral contests nationwide.
SoS was founded after Democrats involved in George W. Bush’s narrow 2000 election victory blamed Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris for influencing the outcome. They also charged that then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell helped return Bush to power in 2004.
In response, SoS was created to target key secretary of state races nationwide – down ballot races that often can be impacted by even small amounts of money and assistance. So far they take credit for helping Democrats win those key jobs in New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, and, of course, in Ritchie’s Minnesota.
That Ritchie would be the prize protégé of the SoS is no surprise, given his own long history as a community organizer. In 2003, he led National Voice to register over 5 million new voters nationwide.
As ruling after ruling by the Ritchie-led State Canvassing Board has gone against Coleman, some are now openly questioning Ritchie’s influence.
“Mark Ritchie as we all know now is a hard-core liberal who was endorsed by ACORN and funded by ACORN,” Matthew Vadum, senior editor of CapitolResearch.org, a nonprofit think tank, tells Newsmax. “It’s not surprising that he has a permissive attitude toward the recount process.”
A few weeks ago, Vadum says, he expected Coleman to emerge the winner. But now he says Coleman’s chances are “diminishing daily.”
Franken has a 251-vote lead, but many thousands of votes remain to be counted.
“I think things are looking pretty grim. It’s pretty ominous for Coleman. What battle in the recount process has he won? It’s pretty hard for him to lose every single challenge, and yet go on to win the election,” Vadum says.
Kersten, a long-time observer of Minnesota’s political machinations, writes that it’s too soon to say whether Ritchie’s influence and resume will taint the credibility of the contentious recount.
“What we do know,” she writes, “is that the referee in the contest appears to be wearing the colors of one of the teams.”
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