WASHINGTON -- On Thursday, November 17, 2011, the worst job in America belonged to the employees who handle Freedom of Information Act requests for the governor's office in Massachusetts.
Hours after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign filed a formal request to that office seeking communications between the Obama presidential campaign and current Gov. Deval Patrick's administration, the Democratic National Committee responded in kind.
In a FOIA request sent Thursday evening to Mark Reilly, Chief Legal Counsel of the Executive Office of the Governor, the DNC asked for records pertaining to communications between Romney and his staff about their decision to wipe their electronic records clean before leaving Massachusetts statehouse. For good measure, the DNC also asked for "any and all electronic correspondence" that Romney and anyone in his administration (not just the members who erased their emails) made while in office that contain the following terms:
“delete emails,” “destroy records,” “government transparency,” “president,” “presidential,” “campaign,” “flip-flop,” “political expediency,” “move to the right,” “more conservative,” “change position,” “abortion,” “stem cell,” “guns,” “assault weapons ban,” “Right to Bear Arms Day,” “climate change,” “global warming,” “carbon dioxide emissions,” “CO2 emissions,” “Planned Parenthood,” “Massachusetts Right To Life,” “raise taxes and fees,” “ranked 47th in job creation,” and “Bush economic policies.”
It's hard to imagine that the DNC didn't request emails containing most of those terms during the 2008 campaign, while researching Romney's record as he made his first bid for the White House. The request for information about the Romney administration's decision to delete its electronic records seems more likely to turn up something new.
On Thursday morning, the Boston Globe reported that before leaving office, Romney and "11 of his top aides purchased their state-issued computer hard drives" and wiped their emails from a server. "Romney administration officials had the remaining computers in the governor’s office replaced just before Governor Deval Patrick’s staff showed up to take power in January 2007."
In addition to giving the impression that Romney was preparing a presidential run while serving as governor -- why else would he hide his electronic trail? -- the article raised questions about his record on transparency.
The Romney presidential campaign moved quickly to change the storyline, criticizing Patrick for being “an opposition research arm of the Obama re-election campaign.” The campaign also filed its own Freedom of Information Act request Thursday seeking "copies of all email correspondence, phone logs, and visitor logs showing contacts that his office has had with David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Jim Messina."
Reilly, whose job now involves handling two large and political FOIA requests, noted earlier that his office has "fulfilled over 250 public records requests in our five years in office and we will be happy to fulfill [Romney's]." There was no immediate response about fulfilling the DNC's.