Wipe Out! Merritt Surfs on Your Dime

Move Over Moondoggie!

State Auditor Les Merritt is on his way to becoming the next surfing legend.

The State Auditor’s Office has used state resources for political purposes. Merritt’s office has surfed to the North Carolina Democratic Party website 217 times in the past six months. In the past two weeks alone, Merritt’s office visited our website five times.

As an avid surfer, Mr. Merritt can’t get enough of the Democratic wave.

The State Auditor’s Office visits our website more than the Democratic National Committee and the Obama and Clinton campaigns combined. More traffic comes from the Auditor’s Office, a public agency funded by public tax dollars, than the entire city of Fayetteville.

Like most surfers, Merritt won’t catch any wave. The State Auditor’s Office is looking for the Big Kahuna, anything on our website that affects Mr. Merritt’s chances of being re-elected.

Merritt’s a surfer who also has an eye for the babes. The State Auditor’s Office used state resources to check out content relating to Beth Wood 43 times.

As chairman of the (surf)board, Mr. Merritt has made a public pledge to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in state government.

But it’s clear to us, he’d rather be surfing.

Wipe Out! Merritt’s surfing by the numbers:

  • 217 - the number of times the State Auditor's Office used a state computer to visit our website
  • 44 - the number of times the State Auditor's Office checked out Democratic rival Beth Wood on our website
  • 37th - the State Auditor's Office's rank among visitors to our website
  • 27 - number of visits to links about our Sanford-Hunt Dinner
  • 41 - the number of times the highest resolution monitor in the State Auditor's Office has visited our website

Click here for documentation.

Comments

Thanks, Jerimee

Ye Olde Auditor apparently has a problem separating his taxpayer funded job from his personal political ambitions. I guess that's why they call him the Watch Dog Blog.

Les is a addicted obessive internet government expense freak!

But it’s clear to us, he’d rather be surfing.

Wipe Out! Merritt’s surfing by the numbers:

* 217 - the number of times the State Auditor's Office used a state computer to visit our website
* 44 - the number of times the State Auditor's Office checked out Democratic rival Beth Wood on our website
* 37th - the State Auditor's Office's rank among visitors to our website
* 27 - number of visits to links about our Sanford-Hunt Dinner
* 41 - the number of times the highest resolution monitor in the State Auditor's Office has visited our website* Jer

Will somebody call Dr Phil and get Les into the Britty therapy sessions!

Les's Blues Big Brother excuses in secret?

Chief lawyer in Les Government office- Boss! We have just been caught over at a site call BlueNC. They are claiming that we are using government computers at taxpayer expense. What are we going do?

Les----Uh! Tell the media that we are part of a joint task force with Homeland Security and looking for Islamo Fascist Terrorists in North Carolina.

Chief lawyer in Les Government office---We can't do that! That a lie!

Les-----Oh! Well tell them that we are looking for porn sites that abuse children and animals along with republicans....

Chief lawyer in Les Government office----That's another lie boss!

Les----Fu##! Well tell that they can't believe anything on the internet.

Chief lawyer in Les Government office----Boss! Is it alright, that I use my vacation time with the State and let you handle it!

Go Jerimee

I don't care what they say, man. You're the coolest kid on the beach. :)

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Yup....and if you recall not long ago

I reported that he had visited my little old site a couple of times. I kept a screen shot of my log to prove it.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Your wish is my command

...or something like that. :)

I haven't checked recently b/c I haven't been writing there.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

217 x 3 = 651 / 60 = 10.85

If you multiply 217 visits by an average of 3 minutes per visit, you get about 11 taxpayer paid staff hours wasted doing opposition research for Mr Leslie Merritt.

Even if half that time was for innocent purposes, you still have the better part of a day being used to help Mr. Merritt's reelection campaign. Not that I'd be willing to concede the first point to begin with.

Given the unambiguous nature of the pages visited, it will be hard for the Auditor to claim that this is a coincidental mistake.

- - - - -
Si Se Puede!

Charlotte Observer

This was reported in the Observer this morning so the story is getting some traction.

"jump in where you can and hang on"
Briscoe Darling to Sheriff Andy

So much for privacy

Too bad the State Party does not have a privacy policy like the National Party has.

I would hope that paid party staffers have more important things to do than try to track down who someone is who visits their site.

And now we all know that if I visit the NCDP site they 1) can identify me; 2) are willing to tell the world that I visit that site.

That gives me the chills.

I had some of those same concerns

when I first read this. Good points.

I'd like to see a privacy policy with a big enough exception to cover the office of the State Auditor, who is, after all, the watch dog who seems unable to watch himself.

Of course, they didn't tie to an individual - just an office. That could make a difference.

All that said, it's a question worth raising.

Merritt is a public official

who is allowing employees paid with our tax dollars to surf the internet to search his name and the name of his political opponent on the public dime. This type of campaign activity paid for with tax dollars should NEVER be granted privacy protection.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I forgot

Duh. It's a crime.

Privacy

Privacy doesnt cover criminal acts. Using government resources for partisan means is a long way away from you wandering over and reading the site on your own time.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

Well,

Any site you visit tracks your IP address. You have no true guarantee of privacy anywhere on the internet. You accept that when you surf the web. You take that risk willingly.

Merritt is a public official and tax dollars pay the salaries of the people who work for him and pay for the equipment being used to surf the web for what appear to be campaign purposes. He and his employees should never be afforded privacy protection when/if they are using computer equipment and man hours paid for with our tax dollars to operate Merritt's re-election campaign. I have never known the state party to monitor private citizens. They would have no reason to.

Merritt also surfed my site. The records very clearly identify his office by name, so the party did not have to investigate individual IP addresses until they found the right ones. Trust me, his office is easily identified.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Which is why

Most responsible sites adopt and comply with privacy policies. Generally, the site will not disclose specific IP adresses to third parties under their privacy policies. And, most site operators would refuse to disclose the information they collect to third parties without a subpoena (unless the Bush administration coerces cooperation). Sometimes they fight the subpoena. Do you really think it is good practice for reputable sites to disclose this information? Expect regulation if this becomes common practice.

So Merritt is a public official. If you want to know where he goes using his computer make a FOIA request. You don't trust that he will give you correct information, FOIA the State IT department, I am confident they have some information.

Besides, who knows who in his office may or may not have gone to any particular site. The Auditor probably has hundreds of employees. Most are career state employees. Most are likely registered Democrats. Many probably worked with the Auditor's announced opponent. Any one of them could have been using state computer to look at your site or any other person's site.

I do not think state law prohibits the use of state computers for limited personal use.

Additionally, reviewing what the public is saying about the office or its officials is, I think, within the bounds of state business. This would include commentary on political sites.

I am much more disturbed about the public disclosure by a web site operator of who visits their sites than public employees who have to be responsive to the public using state time to see what the public is saying about the work they do.

Then, I guess you're upset that Merritt is tracking Perdue and

Moore?

I know many responsible sites that offer no such guarantee of privacy.

I guess I'm more concerned about public employees wasting time researching their boss and his opponent HUNDREDS of times. This isn't casual searching and the NCDP has very little to no public commentary....just so you know. I can't imagine they would think the little commentary that was there changed so very often.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I want the State Auditor to do his Job

The Lt Governor's office requested the State Auditor's office to investigate the State Treasurer's office alleged use of state computers for campaign work. While I do not think the request should have been made, I would hope that the State Auditor whoever he or she might be would actually conduct an audit that is requested by another state official. That audit is not looking at every employees' web usage at the State Treasurer's office. This is completely different than a web operator voluntarily disclosing what entities are visiting their web site.

The Democratic Party has traditionally been a champion of privacy rights. Certain privacy interests are believed to be constitutionally protected by our Party. One of the last entities I would think of that would publically disclose certain activities would be the Democractic Party. The National Party has a very broad and thourough privacy statement and commitmment on its web site. Even some County Parties take seriously the privacy interests of their visitors. I hope Jerry Meek revisits this conduct for the NCDP.

While you may know of many responsible sites that do not have privacy policies, how many of them can you name that voluntarily disclose information about their visitors to the world? I can not think of any, at least not since AOL disclosed the search queries of many of it members. Disclosures such as AOL's have been roundly criticized by progressives everywhere. I join that criticism and will not be hypocritical with the NCDP's disclosure here merely because the NCDP is doing it for political gain.

As to the extent of time spent by state employees visiting the NCDP web site it did not seem like much. While you can capitalize hundreds all you want, I believe the original post noted that the site was visited 217 times over the past six months. About one per day. And the site was visited a whopping five times over the past two weeks! This does not seem excessive to me even if the surfing was done by one person. But, we do not know if the visits were by one person or ten or twenty or even a hundred different people in the Auditor's office over the last six months. We do not know if they were reaserching their boss or his opponent or anything.

We only know that some NCDP staffer thought it appropriate to let the world know that certain visits are coming from a State office and then encourage people to infer nefarious activity. Didn't Hollywood go through an era like that when people's names were disclosed as attending parties where Communist propoganda was discussed only to have their careers ruined?

Seriously, Jerry Meek needs to adopt a privacy policy on the NCDP site and ensure his staff complies rigorously to it. This site could benefit from a privacy policy as well.

Got one in mind?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Yes

Here is one. Very clear. Very effective. Very progressive.

Looks good to me.

But what about fourth and fifth parties?

Just kidding.

James

Precisely, Jerimee.

I don't think there should be a problem disclosing that the State Auditor's office is surfing political websites.

And - I don't think there ever really is an expectation of privacy on the internets. If you think otherwise, no matter what the policies say, I think you're fooling yourself.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

I think its politico

I think at politico.com they tell you that they capture your IP when you submit a comment.

Its my understanding that every website is capable of doing that, but politico has been the only site I have seen that mentions doing it.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

That is Scary

A) Just so we are clear, are you saying that it is the NCDP's policy that information it collects from visitors to its web site using taxpayer funded equipment and/or time is not considered private and therefore can (and perhaps should) be disclosed to the world? This, of course, would include visits from schools and libraries.

B) I think NCDP has a narrow definition of personal information to the extent you represent NCDP's position accurately. I would also say NCDP has a narrow view of private information, but because there is no privacy policy, I guess nothing is considered private by NCDP. While NCDP may not have given out personally identifying information, it did disclose information that most sites with a privacy policy define as personal. Besides, the original post states the Auditor himself engaged in the surfing of the NCDP site, assuming that was a truthful statement gleaned from information the NCDP site obtained, then that's about as personal as you can get.

I can only hope Democratic elected officials and candidates will demand that the Paety develop and impement a privacy policy for its web visitors. I will be shocked if it looks anything like the definition you articulate above.

the Auditor himself

While I can understand how a reasonable person might conclude that the Auditor himself used state resources to conduct opposition research, the data is impersonal, and therefore we cannot know exactly who in the Auditor's office was gathering information relevant to the Leslie Merritt's hopes for reelection.

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The GOP will try to suppress the vote in 2008.

Back it up

I don't think a reasonable person would assume as such but for the original post being disingenuous.

The original post states:

"As an avid surfer, Mr. Merritt can’t get enough of the Democratic wave"

"Merritt’s a surfer who also has an eye for the babes."

"Wipe Out! Merritt’s surfing by the numbers:"

This was the conclusion you pushed people to reach while now claiming the data is too impersonal to reach that conclusion.

Jay.....

This is a blog post, not a court document. Your comments are now meandering into the concern troll side of things.

You've gone from complaining about the fact the NCDP disclosed State Auditor Leslie Merritt had been doing opposition research on his opponent - or someone from his staff had been for him - during normal business hours and from tax-payer purchased computers.....to complaining about how the post was written and the turns of phrase Jerimee used. What is your real problem here, Jay?



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Thank you Betty

For throwing out the troll word. It is always beneficial to the sharing of ideas.

My problem is that the NCDP should be a leader in protecting privacy. I suggested that the NCDP develop one like the National Party has. Instead of saying "good idea", the NCDP rep seems more interested in triivial political attack than the ramifications on other state workers who might visit that site or other sites that have political/policy content and then be accused by the Auditor of engaging in political activity at work. It is a slippery slope that has been opened up here.

It's Betsy :)

Jay, I didn't throw the word out. I used it intentionally and carefully because that is a phrase that bloggers and blog readers identify with and because that is what it appears you are doing. No explanation satisfies you. I don't agree with you and it appears nobody who has responded agrees with you, though you've made your point several times. It is now a part of the public internet record that you don't approve.

I also saved the information from my log when the state auditor's office visited my personal site - three times in a matter of two days. I would have no problem with publishing that information. It's taxpayer owned equipment and someone researching the name of Les Merritt on the taxpayer dime. I absolutely do think this is a potential waste of taxpayer dollars and I think the public has a right to know and I have a responsibility to inform them. Now, I would never publish any identifying information of a non-public official, but that's just me.

Now, if the auditor wanted the NCDP to turn over their logs, the NCDP should be able to redact all private IP addresses and only turn over the data that is a result of surfing on the public dime. Could this get some public employees in hot water? Sure it could. Which means they should probably stop surfing the internet during work hours unless they are working on a specific project that requires that type of research and their work product will eventually bear that out.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Betsy!

Sorry I got your name wrong.

We will agree to disagree. I would hope no web operator would turn any data over to the government unless required to do so under the law.

I suspect that there is some Beth Wood supporter in the Auditor's office right now (ok, well, not today as it is a State Holiday), worried about keeping their job for visiting the NCDP web site during office hours.

If they're working today

then they really do deserve a bonus. I do see your point and would hate for anyone to lose their job over this. I know my husband's company, my mother's company and my Dad's law firm all have clear policies on internet use. I don't know what the state's policy is.

Oh...and I was assuming they wouldn't turn the data over unless there was a gun being held to their heads. :) I was just saying there is a way to protect private citizens if/when Merritt goes on a witch hunt. I personally would require a court order to turn over anything from BlueNC. We are certainly in agreement on whether the party (or any organization) should turn over private information when it is not required by law. I think the area we disagree on here is who is considered a private user in this situation.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

its not a policy

Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the internet (excluding Senator Stevens of course) knows that this information is stored automatically by each and every website in existence.

As for point B, have you ever heard the phrase, "the buck stops here"? The actions in question are not allowed. The ultimate authority over the auditor's office resides with...THE AUDITOR. Therefore, when his employees do something they are not supposed to do while they are in his office, then it is his responsibility to do something about that. The simple fact is that if the Auditor was really concerned about both clearing his name and clearing the name of his office, he would request all relevant information from the NCDP (the information you would rather they not have) so that he could ensure that our tax dollars are not being used in a manner they should not be.

However, its clear the auditor is not concerned with what he should or should not be doing.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

Which is why there should be a policy

To your first point, of course regular internet users know or should know that sites visited will collect data when visiting a site. And that is exactly why reputable sites have privacy policies describing what they will or will not do with that data. These policies were adopted after progressives put pressure on internet operators to protect people's privacy interests.

As to your second point you make my case as to why the NCDP should not disclose this information. What if the Auditor wants all data from NCDP to see what any state employee is doing at that site? Are you suggesting the NCDP should hand that over voluntarily? There are many more state employees that are registered Democratic than not. Will you applaud the Auditor if he goes on a witch hunt to see what state employees are doing if they happen to visit the NCDP web site during office hours? And will the NCDP be party to such a witch hunt?

Again, I hope public officials and employees do read blogs like this or at NCDP or at Civitas or anywhere that talks about State government or policies. If the people doing the work on behalf of the State and its citizens are somehow criticized for that then it further isolates them from the electorate and the needs of the people they represent. I don't think that is a waste of my tax dollers.

well

And will the NCDP be party to such a witch hunt?

Not my call, in any way shape or form.

Will you applaud the Auditor if he goes on a witch hunt to see what state employees are doing if they happen to visit the NCDP web site during office hours?

If the auditor wants to ensure that government employees are doing their jobs and not doing something which they are forbidden to do, then he will be doing what he was elected to do. If he could tear himself away from his business interests then I am sure the public would appreciate him actually doing his job.

This is not a matter of what the proper activities of government officials should be or should not be. This is a matter of what is appropriate and what is not. On the one side is your opinion, on the other are laws and regulations.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"