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Pat Anderson, the Candidate for MN State Auditor Who Counts Every Penny?

Pat [Awada] Anderson, an organizer of tea party events in Minnesota,was a 2010 gubernatorial candidate until former Sen. Norm Coleman became “a factor” in the race. (Coleman never said he was running for governor, but did spend a few weeks hinting to the press that he might.) On January 12, 2010, Pat Anderson quit the governor’s race and announced she would instead run for state auditor (a position to which she failed to be reelected in 2006 when she lost by over 10%).

Cheating consumers

One reason Anderson may have failed in her reelection campaign was her involvement with a telecom company that was found to be cheating consumers in 2003. According to the Pioneer Press:

“Awada [Pat Anderson] owned Capitol Verification, a company that checked New Access orders to make sure consumers truly wanted to change their telephone service. But regulators found her firm sometimes failed in that role. Awada in January sold the company to one of the founders of New Access and was paid, in part, with stock in the parent company.”

At the time, Anderson said that her job is a “very hard job” and that the “lapses” made by her company, New Access, were “not significant.” New Access Chairman of the Board, Elam Baer, similarly dismissed the infraction saying, ” There will always be complaints.” He also stated that the settlement amounts “pale[d] in comparison to other notable enforcement cases.” Consumers who were involuntarily switched to a telecom service provided by Anderson’s company, New Access, apparently viewed the matter differently; regulators in Indiana and Washington said the fines were the “largest ever ordered in those states.”

Missing state property

Another reason Anderson may have failed to win reelection was her involvement (or lack thereof) in repeated incidents where personal identity information including social security numbers was compromised or stolen from her office.

More than once, laptops containing personal identity information were stolen from the state auditor’s office under Anderson’s watch. Only after four thefts did she take action to better secure the information and the laptops. At the time, Anderson said it was unlikely that the laptops were stolen for personal identity information. She then told victims of the crime to contact a national credit-monitoring agency and ask for a fraud alert to be put in place.

Jeopardizing Minnesotans’ personal identity information

During Anderson’s time (January 2007 – June 1, 2008) as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employee Relations (“DOER”) to which she was temporarily appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an investigation by the Office of Legislative Auditor found that Anderson “did not adequately address data security” in contracting with a private firm to handle sensitive data belonging to thousands of Minnesotans. Although DOER was formally dissolved at the discretion of Gov. Pawlenty, Anderson says she intentionally worked herself out of a job. Anderson held the paid position of Commissioner of DOER for 17 months.

Counting the pennies

In a recent press release, Minnesota’s GOP leader Tony Sutton decried State Auditor Rebecca Otto’s “lavish spending,” but made blatant errors in his calculations and took liberties with laws that require the state auditor to oversee public assets that amount to billions of dollars.  The press release describes reasonable legitimate charges as “spending lavishly,”  but miscalculates 6 x $277.91 as 10 x $313.99 and misrepresents the state’s maximum reimbursement policies. Sutton is either telling tall tales or – perhaps a more generous explanation – he simply does not understand the fiduciary responsibilities of the state auditor, even though he served as Anderson’s deputy auditor from January 2003 to November 2006.

In her gubernatorial campaign finance reports, Anderson misstated her ending cash balance. She also left a trail of errors in the state auditor’s office followed – and corrected – by her successor, incumbent State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

Pat [Awada] Anderson campaigns with the slogan “…every penny counts,” but she seems to have a little trouble with the counting part.

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