HARRIS: "This is an attempt to distract, bully and intimidate."
***UPDATE BELOW: UNCLEAR IF MORE ARE COMING?
Two days after a lawsuit accused the Blunt administration of breaking the open records law and a day after it requested back-up tapes from Attorney General Jay Nixon's office, the Governor's office now has a new Sunshine target: Rep. Jeff Harris.
Harris, former House Minority Leader and candidate for Attorney General, received an open records request from the Governor's Chief of Staff Trish Vincent this morning.
Vincent is requesting all e-mails, back-up tapes and documents sent to or from Harris' office since January 2003.
"Representative Harris has claimed to be a strong advocate for the Sunshine Act and open government so we hope and expect he will demonstrate this commitment by providing the information we have requested in this open records request,” said Vincent.
Harris said his office would comply, but added that he believes the request stems from comments he made during House floor debate on the Office of Administration's budget. "It's clearly politically motivated," Harris said. "I stood up and talked about the 2 OA employees who defied their supervisors and the Governor's office who apparently ordered them to destroy e-mails, according to this lawsuit. My point was that too often, state employees get beaten up and I wanted to commend them for doing the right thing," Harris explained.
"Next thing I know, we get a Sunshine request. This is a pretty clear attempt to distract, bully and intimidate me. But I've never been intimidated by this Governor. It's pretty clear who this Governor does not want to see as the next Attorney General. It's me. I consider that a badge of honor," Harris said.
As a taxpayer and candidate for Attorney General, Harris said he'll make it a priority to find out what happened inside the Governor's office with regards to alleged orders to destroy e-mails. He also said he'll continue to be an outspoken defender of the Sunshine Law and plans to comply with the Governor's request. "We just got it and have to review it. I don't know how much it will cost, but if this is how the Governor wants to spend taxpayer money, we intend to comply," Harris said.
***UPDATE . . . 3:47 P.M.
When asked why the Governor's office issued a Sunshine request for Harris specifically, spokesperson Jessica Robinson said the release spoke for itself. Robinson reiterated, Harris "is a purported to be a champion of Sunshine."
It's safe to assume that a good amount of lawmakers would pledge to be a champion of the Sunshine Law. Can we expect more requests of lawmakers? And which ones? Does party affiliation matter? What about Republicans who say they are supporters of the Sunshine Law? Will they get requests?
When I asked specifically what standard is being used by the Governor's office to issue the requests, Robinson said she would have to look into that.