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Campaign Notebook: Ritchie charges voter intimidation

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announces that he has referred a case of what he called voter intimidation to prosecutors. Ritchie on Wednesday said a caller told a St. Paul resident that she worked with the secretary of state's office and was questioning why he had two addresses. Ritchie said his office made no such calls. (Don Davis/St. Paul Bureau)

ST. PAUL - County and federal authorities are looking into a case of what the Minnesota secretary of state calls voter intimidation.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie on Wednesday announced a St. Paul resident reported receiving a call from someone claiming to be working with his office. The woman told the man she was calling because his voter documentation lists two addresses.

The man who received the call, Larry C. Johnson, said in an affidavit that he found the 8 p.m. Tuesday call intimidating. He reported it to Ritchie's office on Wednesday.

An angry Ritchie told reporters that he will not stand for someone misrepresenting herself as one of his employees.

The secretary said he has heard that similar calls were received elsewhere in the Twin Cities area, but did not have details.

Ritchie passed the information along to federal and county prosecutors. A spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney said Johnson's affidavit arrived Wednesday afternoon and it will be investigated.

The woman who made the call is a volunteer for Minnesota Majority, an organization headed by Jeff Davis that primarily promotes conservative social causes such as opposing gay marriage.

"I have no idea what she was saying on the phone," Davis said when a reporter told him about Ritchie's charges.

Davis said he would look into it right away.

The woman was checking for voters with duplicate registration records, Davis said, adding that she had not been instructed to tell anyone she was working with Ritchie's office.

Davis and Ritchie's office have exchanged letters in recent weeks, with Davis claiming that his group has found thousands of improper voter registrations throughout the state.

"We are trying to determine whether or not there are inconsistencies on file," Davis said in an interview.

Bachmann's gas plan

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., reminded voters Wednesday that gasoline prices are near where she promised they would be.

"Earlier this year, I pledged to work to cut gas prices in half -- down to $2 a gallon," Bachmann said. "Gas in Minnesota's 6th District now hovers just barely above that point. But, to keep it there, we need to pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes promoting the renewables technology. ..."

She made her remarks while promoting a plan to dramatically increase the use of renewable energy by "aggressively accelerating tax depreciation for cutting-edge and renewable energy technologies."

Election help

The Minnesota secretary of state Web site has answers to many election-related questions.

The site,, even helps a voter find his polling places.

Franken: Investigate bailout

Congress should look into whether Wall Street firms are abusing funds given them in the recent $700 billion government bailout, Al Franken said.

Franken, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said Wednesday that recent reports of large banks using a portion of the bailout money to buy smaller banks instead of trying to enhance lending should prompt congressional inquiries. He also wants more information from the Bush administration about its intent in overseeing the bailout.

He said the plan lacks accountability.

"And now we find that the $700 billion bailout is being used not to solve the problem, but to handpick winners and losers on Wall Street," Franken said. "That's an outrage. Taxpayer dollars should be helping taxpayers, not going to pad the bottom lines of the Wall Street bankers whose bad bets got us into this mess."

Franken opposed the bailout package, but his opponents Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley criticized him for waiting until after Congress passed the legislation to come out against it.

Coming up

Former Sen. Dean Barkley, running in for U.S. Senate, campaigns today in Redwood Falls and the Twin Cities. On Friday, he tapes a television show in St. Paul before heading to Austin and Owatonna, then will attend a Wayzata football game. On Saturday, he plans to be at the University of Minnesota homecoming parade and game, then visit a commercial area near the campus. Later Saturday, he will attend the Minnesota College Hockey Showcase in St. Paul.

State Capitol reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report.