My Freedom of Information Act Request to Attorney General Cuccinelli
Like so many others, I was surprised when Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli decided to stay in office while running for governor. And I was concerned when I heard that he has not been forthcoming in response to public concerns about whether, in directing both the Office of Attorney General and a campaign for governor, taxpayer funds are possibly supporting his campaign.
When I served as counsel to then-Governor Warner, I frequently worked on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. These are a crucial tool for Virginians to hold our government accountable — for sunlight, rather than darkness, to be the rule of the land. Our FOIA requirements in the Commonwealth are very strict — the office must respond within five days, and may have an extension of seven more days, but must fully respond after that time. The agency may not charge extra fees to provide copies of records, and they also must provide direct access to the records themselves.
Today, I sent a FOIA request to the Attorney General to release several sets of very specific records in three categories — his schedule, his reimbursements, and his email correspondence with campaign organizations.
You can read the full letter below. I will keep everyone updated on what I hear from the Office of the Attorney General.
February 7, 2013
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
Office of the Attorney General
900 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219
Dear General Cuccinelli:
For nearly three decades, Attorneys General of both political parties in Virginia have stepped down from the office to run for Governor. The reason for this tradition is simple: Virginians elect their Attorneys General to serve the public, not to run for Governor. In fact, you stated last month: “I ran to be Attorney General, not to run for Governor.” Yet, in recent months, you have been directing the Office of Attorney General while running for Governor.
This has naturally created a question in the public mind about whether the resources of the Office of the Attorney General are being invested in the public interest or in a political campaign. This concern can be readily dispelled with open information about your office.
Specifically, records about your schedule will reassure the public that you are not performing campaign functions during your work hours. Information about your reimbursements will assure us that travel arranged through the Attorney General’s office is official and not campaign-related. Finally, your office’s emails to political organizations will demonstrate that no campaign work has been performed using the Office of the Attorney General’s resources.
Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) follows Virginia’s traditions of sunlight and accountability in government, befitting the Commonwealth that gave constitutional democracy to the world. As per §2.2.3700(B) of the Code of Virginia:
“The affairs of government are not intended to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy since at all times the public is to be the beneficiary of any action taken at any level of government. Unless a public body or its officers or employees specifically elect to exercise an exemption provided by this chapter or any other statute, every meeting shall be open to the public and all public records shall be available for inspection and copying upon request. All public records and meetings shall be presumed open, unless an exemption is properly invoked.”
§2.2.3700(B) further states:
“The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities and afford every opportunity to citizens to witness the operations of government.”
As these sections make clear, the Code expressly intends to ensure that Virginia’s taxpayers know how every elected official, including the Attorney General, is spending our tax dollars. Pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, §2.2.3704(G) et seq., and as a Virginia resident, I therefore request copies of records of the following items:
- Records of your schedule from Microsoft Outlook and/or any other electronic scheduling software for the months of December 2012 and January 2013.
- Records of your schedule from Microsoft Outlook and/or any other electronic scheduling software for the days of February 1, 2, and 3, 2013.
- Records of your schedule from Microsoft Outlook and/or any other electronic scheduling software for the day of February 4, 2013.
- Any reimbursements, allowances, or travel charges that you have personally received for the months of December 2012 and January 2013.
- For the months of December 2012 and January 2013, any email correspondence between you and any other staff of the Attorney General’s office and any staff or associates of the following parties:
- The Republican Party of Virginia
- The Republican Governor’s Association
- The Cuccinelli for Governor campaign
These records will be readily accessible by your staff in electronic format and so should be sent quickly and without additional fees. Indeed, §2.2.3704(F) of the Virginia Code prohibits the imposition of “any extraneous, intermediary or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records.” Further, “Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication.”
Per §2.2.3704(G) of the Virginia Code, please send the requested records to me electronically at [email address]. If only paper copies of the records are available, please mail them to me at the following address:
Additionally, per §2.2.3704(A) of the Virginia Code, I request that, I, or any Virginia resident I designate, be provided access to review these records, where possible, over the Internet and/or by physical access to relevant paper documents during business hours.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. I can be reached with any questions at [phone number].
Michael Signer, Esq.