Official responsibility

Lawmakers are responsible for what they say — even if they didn’t write it.

by Daily Editorial Board

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, lawmakers have the ability to connect with their constituents like never before. But with easier communication, legislators must recognize that the buck still stops with them.

Freshman state Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, helped demonstrate this point last week. The senator came under fire for an e-mail a legislative assistant allegedly sent without his knowledge. The message was in response to the Minnesota Nurses Association and said Newman would not meet with the union since it donated to his opponent during the 2010 election cycle.

An ethics subcommittee ultimately determined he was not at fault last Wednesday after a more than five-hour hearing. To his credit, Newman took full responsibility, but not before he pointed out that he did not prepare the message and that it was not even consistent with his writing style. But thatâÄôs all beside the point.

Blaming staffers is a cop-out. The person who was on the ballot is the person who should be accountable for absolutely everything their office puts out. They run the ship.

Newman said he expects the issue to be raised if he runs for re-election, and it should. Just because a subcommittee cleared him does not mean his constituents canâÄôt hold him accountable to their standards.

The days of carefully crafted press releases being a legislatorâÄôs main mode of communication are over. More and more avenues are opening for the public to engage with whatâÄôs going on at the Capitol. The Legislature must make it explicit that legislators themselves are responsible for any e-mail, tweet or wall post from an official account, no matter who actually wrote it.