VIEWS: 72 PAGES: 2 POSTED ON: 7/27/2010
Documents related to the furor around a flood of conservative data requests made of DFL officials.
I’ve included my press release below, as well as two attachments, which are addressed at the conclusion of the press release. Regards, Sean Niemic The Minnesota Republic Editor in Chief c: 856-834-6274 For Immediate Release Contact: Sean Niemic, 856-834-6274 State Auditor Rebecca Otto Tries to Shut Down Student Investigative Journalist’s Inquiries When Public Intimidation and Maligning Students and Their Journalists Does Not Work, What Follows Are Demands for Money and Threats to Drag Out Process MINNEAPOLIS—July 15, 2010—Sean Niemic, editor of The Minnesota Republic, a student publication at the University of Minnesota, today decried attempts by State Auditor Rebecca Otto to shut down a journalistic investigation through threats of charging high prices for public data and through stonewalling and foot-dragging. “As part of the investigative work at The Minnesota Republic, we have submitted requests for public information to current elected officials seeking reelection – these are known as Data Practices Requests,” explained Niemic. “These requests are based on research and pertain to the operations of their offices and their conduct in an official capacity.” Every major news outlet, in all media, in the state of Minnesota files such requests as part of their regular reporting. “When State Auditor Rebecca Otto received the information requests from The Minnesota Republic, she responded quickly and publically,” explained Niemic. “In a press release from her campaign (not her official office, which received the information requests) she attacked our publication’s and our journalists’ motives; she accused us of trying to waste taxpayer money.” “With our requests so far not fulfilled by Otto, it is unclear why our particular requests cause her such consternation and elicited such attacks and attempts at intimidation,” said Niemic. “The Minnesota Republic has found no record of Otto’s campaign or the Office of the State Auditor publically commenting on, not to mention attacking, any other news outlet for filing information requests.” “The Minnesota Republic has refused to withdraw the requests after this public attack,” said Niemic. “It appears that if the requests are not withdrawn, Otto will be demanding an undisclosed amount of money and will wait as long as possible to release the requested information. The State Auditor is required to fulfill information requests in a timely manner – this includes providing information on an ongoing basis, as it is uncovered, if the collection period is less than brief.” “Because the Minnesota Republic is a student-run and partially University- funded publication, Otto knows that any unnecessary outlay of funds are not part of our normal budget and will harm our mission as student journalists,” said Niemic. “Otto’s office did not indicate what payments would be requested or for what, but rather offered a vague promise that if the requests are not withdrawn, undisclosed amounts of money will be demanded. This is a clear act of intimidation.” Niemic said, “The entire purpose of the Office of the State Auditor is to provide transparency and to hold accountable local elected officials and others entrusted with the public good. Journalists play a key role in holding constitutional officers accountable. Why doesn’t Otto want to be open and transparent?” Niemic continued, “Let me be clear: We will not be intimidated. We will pursue our information requests.” Attachments: 1. A copy of the letter demanding money and promising delay from official Office of the State Auditor. 2. The Minnesota Republic response. The Minnesota Republic is a student journalism project founded by and run by students at the University of Minnesota. ###
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