Thursday, November 10, 2005

A special note from Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver: Nigerians And You; how to make the most out of our new foreign exchange program

Admittedly, I am not a Chet Culver fan. It’s not that I attended some political chicken lunch and was snubed in a round of table glad-handing, no, it’s the daddy thing.

I’ve always disliked legacy politics. It’s tolerable if the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when the apple probably fell some distance and rolled before stopping, it makes it difficult not to wince at a legacy.

Chet’s not a bad guy, a solid education from Virginia Tech (Okay, your dad’s a US Senator you practically have a get in free card to most Ivy League schools, except if…) and a prior career in education and youth services. But is “Solid Guy”+ “Senator Dad”+ “State Office Holder with Mixed Results” = enough to be Iowa’s next governor?

And the ‘mixed results’ might trend a little lower with this scoop. Charlotte Eby writes in the Quad City Times about letters the Iowa Citizens’ Aide Ombudsman sent to Chet Culver back in March and April with concerns about private information on a Secretary of State web page. This SOS web page may include full names, birthdates and social security numbers. You know, the critical pieces of information needed to perpetrate identity theft.

… Culver’s office initially was notified by Angrick in a March 1 letter. Angrick followed up that letter with another April 28 threatening to issue a critical report or a subpoena after receiving no response from Culver’s office.

… By 2001, the information was available online. Beginning in May, the office began redacting, or blacking out information on documents that included Social Security numbers. ...

I don’t know what to make of this situation. My primary concern is with the Iowans whose identities may be in Nigerian databases. All I’ll say -- Chet, you better carb load your tech geeks and send ‘em spoofing foreign IP addresses.

My second concern is Culver’s response, or lack of response, to the Ombudsman’s letter. Chet’s office never contacted the Ombudsman. Instead, the SOS office began quietly removing sensitive data from the files in May.

I don’t get it. Why did Culver’s office ignore the two letters from the Iowa Citizens’ Aide Ombudsman ’s office; yet, after the second letter, begin the process of quietly editing the data files?

I understand the political costs of admitting to a mistake, but Culver has made this a much bigger deal than it is. Instead of responding with a quick press release in March, pulling the site down for a day to fix it, and then introducing an improved web page, Culver ignored it and, when it looked like the Ombudsman wasn’t going away, he tried to fix it on the sly.

My guess on this political bungling, Culver needed to keep his nose clean for his first round of gubernatorial fundraising. Culver’s campaign spent all last spring and summer in Washington DC raising money from daddy’s old friends, and bad press of any kind might have produced a few too many small dollar checks.

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