Team Blunt has stepped in it. “It” is a combination of feces and bubblegum that stinks and sticks. Not all that many Missourians are paying attention to the scandal yet, but they will because, not only is it not going away, it’s gaining momentum. The furor bids fair to last into the campaign season and even to wind up in court.
Someone (Jay Nixon, eventually?) might sue the governor’s office for deleting e-mails in contravention of the state’s Sunshine Law and for refusing to reveal all the documents pertaining to this case. But that scenario is still distant. For now, Nixon is staying out of it and watching Bluntco hoist itself on its own petard.
Another thread of the scandal that could end up in court is the brouhaha over whether the state broke into Scott Eckersley’s private e-mail account. When Bluntco got wind that Eckersley had contacted the press, the office decided to preemptively smear him in the media. The state mailed boxes of his records, unsolicited, to the Post-Dispatch and to Tony Messenger at the Springfield News-Leader. Eckersley has proof that some of the e-mails in those boxes had to have been obtained from his private e-mail account. Hacking into a private account is illegal.
Eckersley has a document from his internet provider AppRiver, stating that on September 28th he requested his e-mails not be forwarded to his government account and that they stopped forwarding any e-mail. Yet some of the material that Blunt’s office sent to the Post and to Messenger was written after September 28th. Not only has someone in the governor’s office, then, gained unauthorized illegal access to Eckersley’s private account, that someone was stupid enough to send proof of the crime to the media.
Since the purpose of sending that material was to smear Eckersley as a sexual pervert and as someone who cheated taxpayers by doing work for his private firm on government time, he’s not likely to feel charitable toward his former bosses, especially since they still maintain he lied about warning them that deleting e-mails was illegal. At the very least, Eckersley is not going to shut up.
What he wants and what reporters want is for Matt Blunt to open all records dealing with this issue. Blunt’s reasons for refusing to do so must be powerful if they can induce him to continue inviting such unwanted scrutiny. Howard Beale, at Fired Up!, has a fine piece speculating on the reasons, starting with this quotation from one of Ronald Reagan’s wordsmiths: “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.”
The first and most interesting conjecture has to do with the man who actually fired Eckersley, chief of staff Ed Martin. Perhaps:
*Crazy Eddie Martin has chosen this battle as his own personal Waterloo. Martin, who’s been both completely absent from the scene and who some have speculated is the target of coup attempts, remains inexplicably as the sole beneficiary of the complete protection of the Governor’s office. It is possible that Blunt has committed himself to the increasingly suicidal decision to hide the truth because Martin has made clear that the totality of his actions in connection with Eckersley must never become known. Already embarassed, Martin may well have made it clear to Team Blunt that he’s to be protected from further humiliation or else he shares the wealth and talks about what goes on inside the mansion.
Beale also thinks the stonewalling might be explained by Blunt himself having taken some part in this directly and not wanting it revealed. Or his resistance might be simply hubris–feeling that he is above the law and thus not required to explain himself to anyone.
The final possibility Beale offers is that:
*Blunt believes that doing the right thing in this instance will lead down a slippery slope to his having to comply with the law all the time. It’s possible that Blunt believes that if he caves on this matter and shares the truth that he will be expected to do so with respect to other controversial situations. He knows that –even if he slides on the Eckersley scandal– if the press gets the idea that it can access documents and communications about fee office distribution, his brother’s lobbying his office, the Nathan Cooper/James Harris scandal or any number of other sensitive items that he is irretrievably sunk. So he’s sticking by his guns, telling the media they’ll get nothing and like it.
It looks as if Matt Blunt is in for a long, hard bout of public embarrassment. Whether his malfeasance will sink into the public consciousness remains to be seen. One would think it would, but then again, his role model, George W. Bush, got away with far more for far longer, even managing to squeak by in the 2004 election. Let us hope that Blunt is not so fortunate in ’08.