Virginia Attorney General (AG) Ken Cuccinelli is arguing that Virginia’s open government laws do not apply to him or his office, according to a statement released by the AGs office. Cuccinelli iis once again showing that he thinks he is above the laws and norms of Virginia (e.g., running for governor of Virginia while acting Attorney General)
The statement comes as Freedom of Information requests have been made for PUBLIC records regarding gifts that Cuccinelli and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell have received from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr.
According to spokesman for the AG’s office, Brian Gottstein, “The attorney general’s office is committed to transparency, which includes complying with the protocols of FOIA, even though under Virginia law, FOIA doesn’t apply to a constitutional office.”
The Roanoke Times reports that “Gottstein was explaining language in two recent responses to requests for records related to the office’s handling of a $1.7 million tax dispute with Star Scientific, whose chief executive officer, Jonnie Williams, gave $35,000 in gifts to Cuccinelli and McDonnell after their election. The company gave $79,000 to McDonnell’s political action committee after the election.”
But the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, Megan Rhyne, disagrees. “I’m not sure how the AG can say, then, that the office is not subject to FOIA. I also cannot imagine the AG having a wholesale exclusion from FOIA where the governor and lieutenant governor both do not.”
On its face, the idea that any member or office of the government is exempt from public scrutiny and transparency is absurd and a dangerous precedent in Virginia politics. The claim is all the more ironic given Cuccinelli’s own pretensions as Virginia’s self-crowned prince of libertarian values such as government transparency.
But even if Virginia law allowed the AG’s office to turn down Freedom of Information requests, an innocent person would jump at the opportunity to clear his or her name, especially during a campaign for governor, and even more especially while running for governor as a sitting public servant!
Furthermore, releasing information which can exonerate him in the public eye would put this controversy behind him and allow Cuccinelli to focus more fully on his campaign for governor and, one would hope, his responsibilities as Virginia’s top legal representative.
Cuccinelli clearly doesn’t think that the rules apply to him. Why would anyone vote for a candidate who thinks he is above the law?