Last Wednesday, Jo Mannies posted a press release from Blunt’s office about the email scandal on the Post-Dispatch’s blog “Politcal Fix.” Initially, she noted that certain statements in the release, “run counter to some statements initially made by members of the governor’s staff.” In response to prompting for specifics in the comments from myself and The Oracle, she updated the entry with her replies in parenthesis noting the irregularities in the release. First of all, Mannies took some flack on Fired Up! last week for doing the whole “Republican scandal is actually good for Republicans” meme in her column, so I’d like to give her props for responding to her readers in this case and explicitly addressing the problems of Blunt’s press release. Second, the update would have been easy to miss, since there was no big flashing “UPDATE” sign anywhere and it was changed over Thanksgiving break, so I’m re-sharing the relevant bits here.
First there is this statement from the Blunt Press Release:
FACT: Governor Blunt’s administration has retained and released more documents and e-mails than any other elected official.
In reply, Mannies notes:
(According to spokeswoman Jessica Robinson, this is an observation by his staff, based on what they believe has been released by other offices. That assertion appears to include what other offices have released to the Missouri Republican Party, in response to Sunshine Law requests.)
That’s nice. So basically they’re asserting the gut feeling of Blunt staffers as a FACT. Steven Colbert would be proud, and we can all rest easy knowing that the people running the state don’t need to bother to actually count anything or develop objective measurements for their facts, they can just eyeball the state of the world from their desks.
“FACT: The Blunt Administration has never said that e-mails were never public records. It has said, in accordance with law, that e-mails can be public records, but not every e-mail is a public record.”
And the reply:
(Following is the official statement e-mailed out REPEATEDLY by the governor’s staff in mid-September. In fact, communications director Rich Chrismer asked several times – notably in emails sent on Sept. 13 – that the following be used by the Post-Dispatch in its entirety: “There is no statute or case that requires the state to retain individual’s emails as a public record. However, even though they are not a public record, if we have emails that are relevant to a Sunshine request, we always provide them in compliance with the law.”)
This seems like a flat out contradiction. The claim that “there is not statue or case that requires the state to retain individuals emails…” basically is stating that such emails are never public records. In fact, even the next sentence seems a little strange since if no individual emails are public records then it is necessarily true that “if we have emails that are relevant to a Sunshine requires, we always provide them” given that, by definition, there are no emails that are relevant to Sunshine requests.
Lastly, not necessarily leastly, theres this:
“FACT: After a Sunshine request was filed, Jay Nixon’s Chief of Staff only provided approximately 200 e-mails during a three year period. It is hard to believe the Chief of Staff for an attorney general receives, on average, only one e-mail every four days. Even more unbelievable is that not one of these emails was to his boss, the Attorney General.”
(The Post-Dispatch sent out Sunshine requests to Nixon and Blunt in late Sept. for six weeks worth of emails from each of them, and their chiefs of staff. Neither batch sent to the Post-Dispatch included any emails between Blunt and chief of staff Ed Martin, or Nixon and chief of staff John Watson.)
Since “hard to believe” is such a wishy-washy term, I guess we can’t call contradiction on this one. But it’s still funny that, by their own logic, Blunt’s office must find it unbelievable that Blunt and Martin didn’t provide any email exchanges to the P-D. Even they don’t believe themselves!!