Last week, Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie said he was “disturbed” that the Democrat-leaning group America Coming Together allowed convicted felons to register voters door to door in some states. Yesterday, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a Minnesota GOP official acknowledged that several ex-convicts have worked phone banks for the state party during the past year. Minnesota GOP officials say they are just giving the ex-cons a second chance and that they don’t have access to sensitive information about contributors and voters. Gillespie said the GOP would not let ex-cons “go house to house and handle sensitive personal information.”
The Minnesota Republican Party has employed at least 37 past and current residents of a St. Paul halfway house to work their phone banks since June 2003. Of those, eight have criminal records and two have been convicted. Among other GOP employees are seven with criminal records and three with convictions. The crimes range from terroristic threats to burglary to vehicular homicide. “Unlike America Coming Together, we strongly believe that sending felons convicted of violent crimes door to door is wrong,” said a GOP statement. The halfway house residents, who lived at the St. Paul-based Hazelden Fellowship Club, earned a total of $178,843 from the GOP between June 2003 and May 2004.