DN: Legal collection of constituent data may be a problem, too

There's a semi-famous quote attributed to journalist Michael Kinsley: Nevermind the illegal stuff; "The real scandal is what's legal."

The Daily News doesn't go quite that far this morning, but it does sound an alarm about an overlooked aspect of last week's Perzel indictment. We all heard about how the former Speaker of the State House allegedly used taxpayer money to purchase voter-tracking software he used in his campaigns. What we haven't heard as much is that Perzel defended the software by saying was for constituent services. Using software to collect information about constituents is par for the course in Harrisburg.

The DN finds this disconcerting. Though it says there's "a clear line between money spent on the caucuses for consituent management and money spent for a candidate's campaign," the paper also believes it's "time to look at the bigger picture. ... Both House caucuses operate multi-million-dollar Information Technology departments, presumably organized to make consistuent services more efficient."

The crux:

Keeping records of callers and their concerns, and occasionally e-mailing them are pretty basic functions. These IT operations are far more complex. The Democratic caucus, for example, provides representatives with computers and programs; all constituent information collected by individual offices goes back to a main server for use by the caucuses. We don't know how much public money is spent on buying databases of current and potential constituents' personal information. But these complex operations make us wonder: is this about keeping constituents happy, or building detailed records on potential voters?

We'll have more about constituent tracking as the day goes on. For now, what do you think? Is what's legal here part of the scandal?

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