Pennsylvania’s Open Records Act is pretty simple: you file a request with whatever person or agency from which you seek records and they have five days to comply. If they don’t comply they must at least respond and explain why and the reasons must be within legal guidelines. Everything is presumed to be public except for the logical stuff: litigation, personnel files, security issues and so forth. Keystone Progress has been attempting to gain access to eligible documents related to the Attorney General’s political lawsuit against health insurance reform. Because the Commonwealth doesn’t even yet have legal standing for such a suit and the communications requested have to do with planning and organization of a political nature this clearly falls under the prerogatives of the law.
Corbett refused to comply already and today Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress again attempted to file a follow up request. This time it was a much narrower filing due to all those states which have complied with similar open records requests and Keystone Progress knows whose records to request. Mike went to the AG’s office in Strawberry Square to hand deliver the request and was treated rudely by Corbett’s personnel before being denied the right to deliver his request. Since when does a state agency have the power to refuse to accept an Open Records Request? What is Tom Corbett hiding that he is desperate to stall every possible action attempting to provide insight into what is a very political operation within his office?
Corbett’s Office refuses to accept Right to Know Request from Keystone Progress
(HARRISBURG, PA)-Keystone Progress attempted to deliver a Right to Know Request to the Office of Attorney General, but after a 40 minute wait at 1:30 in the afternoon, was told “Everyone is at lunch. Mail it in.”
“Once again, Tom Corbett’s Office is showing its disdain for the public and for the rule of law,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “The Office of Attorney General cannot arbitrarily refuse to accept the legitimate requests of Pennsylvania citizens because its entire staff is at lunch at 1:30 in the afternoon.”
Here is the chronology of the OAG’s refusal to accept a Right to Know Request, by Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress.
1:15 PM I arrived at Office of Attorney General’s reception area on the first floor of Strawberry Square in Harrisburg. I was asked to call upstairs to the OAG’s office on the 15th floor to get permission to go upstairs. I told the woman who answered the phone who I was and that I wanted to come upstairs to submit a Right to Know request. At first, she said I could come right up. I asked her to talk to Capitol Police officer on duty to let him know it was alright. When the officer got off the phone, he told me that she could not allow me to come up and that I should wait a few minutes until she got an answer. She told him that she would call back in a few minutes.
1:25 PM The officer on duty apologized for the delay and called the OAG asking whether they would allow me upstairs. He was told “everyone was at lunch.” The person on the phone said they would not allow me upstairs, but I could wait.
1:44 PM The first floor receptionist was called by OAG. They said again that everyone was at lunch and that I would have to mail in my request.
(The following is the original news release that we filed in anticipation of being able to submit our request.)
Keystone Progress re-files Right to Know Request concerning Corbett’s suit to overturn healthcare reform
First request was denied. Keystone Progress seeking more specific information after
Corbett’s office tried to hide correspondence with his major political funder.
(HARRISBURG)-Keystone Progress (KP) has filed a detailed and specific Right to Know Request with Tom Corbett’s Office of Attorney General, seeking information on correspondence concerning Corbett’s politically motivated suit to overturn the federal healthcare reform legislation.
The request seeks all correspondence concerning that suit between the OAG and numerous political operatives and organizations. This is KP’s second request for this information. The first was turned down by Corbett’s office.
Keystone Progress recently uncovered emails that revealed Corbett’s office has been working with a Republican campaign organization to plan to overturn the recently enacted federal healthcare reform law. KP uncovered the relationship in a series of emails released by the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice under a similar request by One Wisconsin Now.
Fourteen state attorneys general have filed suit to overturn the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, the federal healthcare reform law. Corbett has repeatedly denied that his efforts are political, despite the fact that he agreed to join the suit even before he had read the healthcare reform law. The lawsuit was filed just seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law.
The staff of the attorneys general have been working with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). RSLC describes itself as “the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the office of Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislator.”1 RSLC is organized as a 527 organization which has contributed over $58 million to elect Republicans at the state level. RSLC was Corbett’s largest contributor during his race for reelection as attorney general, giving him $691,000, according to the PA Department of State.2
“At the risk of getting subpoenaed or being subjected to retaliation by Attorney General Corbett, we are filing another request for this correspondence,” said Michael Morrill, Keystone Progress’ executive director. “The Wisconsin emails reveal what we believe is the tip of the iceberg concerning the involvement of the OAG and political operatives in this suit. Corbett’s office should comply with this request as the AG’s office in Wisconsin did.”
The request seeks all correspondence between OAG and the following:
* Republican State Leadership Committee
* Republican Attorneys General Association
* Republican Party of Pennsylvania
* Republican National Committee
* American Justice Partnership
* Caleb Consulting
* Tom Corbett for Governor
* Tim Barnes, Chairman, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Scott Ward, President, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Ben Cannatti, Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Erin Berry, Associate General Counsel, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Casey Phillips, Regional Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Michael Luethy, Regional Political Director, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Adam Temple, Press Secretary, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Robert Sechrist, Director of New Media, Republican State Leadership Committee
* Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee
* Karl Rove
* Chirag Shah, Campaign Manager for JB Van Hollen WI Attorney General
* Rob Gleason, Chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania
* Joyce Haas, Vice-Chair of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania
* Christine J. Toretti, Republican National Committeewoman
* Robert Asher, Republican National Committeeman
1 Republican State Leadership Committee website http://www.rslc.com/about-rslc/
2Pennsylvania Department of State http://www.campaignfinance.sta…
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