A number of North Carolina government email addresses were used in setting up accounts with Ashley Madison, an online community that bills itself as a way to foster extramarital affairs, according to numerous reports.
Ashley Madison’s accounts have been hacked, and various entities are perusing the data. Officials in Canada, where the company is based, and in the U.S. have opened investigations into the hack, which is a crime.
An arm of the conservative Raleigh-based Civitas Institute said it reviewed the information and has discovered nearly 100 email addresses linked to city, county and other government accounts in the state. Other outlets, including the Associated Press, have also found government accounts in the data.
Officials – and media outlets – caution that it is not clear that the presence of an email address means much. One GOP official in Louisiana said he had set up an account to perform opposition research. President Barack Obama’s email address was included in the data. Some people, though, have admitted to using the service to cheat on a spouse.
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Civitas said in a release that the presence of North Carolina government accounts is “just the tip of the iceberg of government employees using taxpayer resources for personal use.” It said it would keep looking at the data.
“Unfortunately,” its release said, “people will be distracted by the salacious nature of this abuse and not the fact that North Carolinians are being taxed to support government at all levels using state and local resources to engage in this activity at work as opposed to serving the people of North Carolina.”
A prominent Democratic political consultant and blogger, Thomas Mills, countered in a blog post that Civitas was just using the moment as an excuse to “beat up on public employees.”
“Tip of the iceberg? Please,” Mills wrote. “Nobody wasted any state resources and there’s no evidence that the accounts were set up on government time. It didn’t cost the state one red cent for those people to use their state email addresses to sign up to have an extramarital affair. It proves that we hire some people who aren’t smart enough to get a gmail account when engaging in nefarious internet activities, but that’s about it.”