Born December 21, 1951, Donald Mark Ritchie grew up in Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University in 1971. Soon thereafter, he co-founded the Infant Feeding Action Coalition (INFACT), which maintains that millions of children worldwide have suffered malnourishment and death “because they were not breastfed.” From 1977-84 INFACT coordinated an international boycott of Nestle Foods, a marketer of breast-milk substitutes. Ritchie explained that the chief objective of the boycott, which was replete with anti-corporate rhetoric and Marxist slogans, was not to improve infant health in Third World nations, but “to link the capitalist system—and the way it organizes our lives—to people’s very personal experiences.”
In November 1984 Ritchie traveled to Rome, Italy to attend a meeting of the World Food Assembly, a coalition that believes “radical changes are needed if we are to meet our human responsibility of ensuring food for all.” Around this time, Ritchie took a job with Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich’s Department of Agriculture.
In 1987 Ritchie incorporated the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), which seeks to pressure American corporations into importing more food from “sustainable” growers in other nations. He served as IATP’s president for the next 19 years.
Ritchie was one of more than 100 activists who in 1994 helped build the socialist coalition known as the New Party, which Barack Obama would join two years later. For a list of additional New Party builders, click here and here.
In the mid-1990s Ritchie became involved with the International Forum on Globalization, which laments that “the benefits of globalization have gone to the few at the exclusion of many.” He later became a leading official of that organization.
In November/December 1999 Ritchie participated in the anti-capitalist, anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. That December, he attended and addressed a meeting of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in Minneapolis, where a CPUSA report marked “not for publication” listed him as a “non-party friend.”
In 2003 Ritchie served as a policy consultant to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation‘s Food and Society Initiative. On October 8 of that year, he spoke at an event hosted by the Land Stewardship Project, which is “dedicated to creating transformational change in our food and farming system.” The following month, Ritchie attended the National Summit on Agriculture & Rural Life (held in Des Moines, Iowa), where he spoke alongside such notables as Carol Moseley Braun, Howard Dean, Bracken Hendricks (an affiliate of the Apollo Alliance and the Center for American Progress), and Dennis Kucinich. Also in 2003, Ritchie led National Voice, a coalition of more than 2,000 community-based organizations working on voter-participation and voter-mobilization campaigns.
That same year, Ritchie, running on the ticket of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (which favors massive government entitlements and an ever-expanding welfare state), was elected as Minnesota’s secretary of state, defeating Republican incumbent Mary Kiffmeyer. At his inauguration, Ritchie credited his upset victory, in large measure, to the efforts of the Secretary of State Project.
According to Kiffmeyer, “The first thing he [Ritchie] did when he got into office was to dismantle the ballot reconciliation program we started. Under that program districts are required to check [the] number of ballots issued, by matching them with the number of ballots cast, that way we know immediately that the vote count is accurate.”
On February 9, 2007, Ritchie spoke at a Washington, DC event (on “voter suppression”) sponsored by the NAACP, and People for the American Way. Co-sponsors of the event included Common Cause, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Education Association, the Progressive States Network, and the Service Employees International Union.
When Minnesota Democrat Al Franken won a controversial U.S. Senate race in 2008 (click here for details), Mary Kiffmeyer said she was “absolutely sure” that Ritchie’s elimination of voting regulations was responsible for Franken’s victory. She noted, for instance: “We now have 17,000 more ballots cast than there are voters who voted and no way to determine what went wrong. Why anyone would eliminate that basic check, I don’t know.” Dan McGrath and Jeff Davis, founders of the watchdog group Minnesota Majority, concurred that Franken’s 312-vote margin of victory was directly attributable to Ritchie’s dismantling of election rules. Another consequence of Ritchie’s actions, for example, was that some 1,400 convicted felons, mostly residing in heavily Democratic areas, illegally voted in that election.
On April 12, 2010, Ritchie moderated an event entitled “An Evening for Election Integrity!” in New York City. A noteworthy member of the host committee was Frances Fox Piven. Five months later, Ritchie spoke at the Minnesota AFL-CIO‘s annual convention.
Ritchie was re-elected as Minnesota’s secretary of state in November 2010. His campaign, like the one four years earlier, was endorsed by CPUSA, and the Progressive Democrats of America. His campaign donors included such notables as Patricia Bauman, Heather Booth, Paul Booth, Jodie Evans, and Margery Tabankin.
In 2012 Ritchie, without explanation, changed the title that Minnesota’s state legislature had given to a proposed voter-ID amendment which was to be submitted to a public referendum, and which Ritchie himself strongly opposed. The original title was straightforward: “Photo identification required for voting.” The new title, given by Ritchie, was: “Changes to in-person & absentee voting & voter registration; provisional ballots.” As the Minneapolis Star Tribune noted, “Ritchie [also] pulled a similar stunt on the [gay] marriage amendment, substituting a title that polling shows will likely push the vote toward his favored result.” In response to Ritchie’s duplicity, state Republican lawmakers on August 7th passed a resolution calling on House Speaker Kurt Zellers to initiate impeachment proceedings against the secretary of state.
Ritchie has noteworthy ties to the Tides Foundation and Tides Center. He is listed as the Tides Center’s “registered agent,” and as the designated contact person for the Trade Research Consortium, a Tides Center project that seeks to “illuminat[e] the links between trade, environmental, and social justice.” Among Tides’ many grantees are the Consumer’s Choice Council (founded by Ritchie to lobby for “eco-labels” on food products) and Peace Coffee, (a “sustainable coffee company” owned and operated by Ritchie and his brother).
For additional information on Mark Ritchie, click here.