FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Contact: Kristen Muszynski
The legal decision (PDF) and Sec. Dunlap’s full statement: (Word Doc)
Court rules in favor of Sec. Dunlap in lawsuit seeking access to Elections Commission correspondence
AUGUSTA – Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the now-disbanded federal Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, has succeeded in his legal effort to obtain information about the commission’s work.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued her ruling today, stating that Sec. Dunlap is entitled to the requested documents, which must be provided by July 18, 2018. This includes all communications between commissioners, with staff of federal agencies, with commission staff and related to the development of policy proposals, from its formation in May 11, 2017 to its termination on Jan. 3, 2018.
“It was a difficult and even daunting decision to bring this matter to court,” said Dunlap. “The American people deserve to know – indeed, as the Court rules, they have a right to know – how their government officials are working to reshape the future of this nation. In this decision, the judge locks the back windows and side doors, turns on the lights, and demands that this work happen not in the shadows, but in the open. I thank the District Court for their very thorough work.”
Secretary Dunlap filed the lawsuit on Nov. 9, 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by excluding Dunlap and others from much of the commission’s work. The Executive Office of the President (EOP) was also a named defendant, as the office staffed the commission and maintained its records.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Sec. Dunlap submitted an information request to the commission on Oct. 17, 2017 citing concerns about “a vacuum of information from the leadership or staff.” The FACA requires that all commissioners receive equal information about the commission’s work, but he had not been privy to any discussions related to meeting materials, witness invitations, goals, or outreach. His repeated requests for the information were rebuffed, which led to the legal action.
Dunlap’s suit is based on the 1999 DC Circuit Court decision in Cummock v. Gore, in which the court held that commissioners may not be denied access to information. Dunlap is represented by nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight and the law firm of Patterson Belknap, based in New York City.