Thursday, May 6, 2010

Emails link Corbett’s AG office to Republican campaign group in suit to overturn healthcare reform

Keystone Progress uncovers coordination between Corbett’s office and Republican State Leadership Committee, Corbett’s largest campaign donor.

Corbett’s office tried to hide relationship by denying Right to Know Request.

(HARRISBURG)—Tom Corbett’s Office of Attorney General has been working with a Republican campaign organization to plan to overturn the recently enacted federal healthcare reform law. Keystone Progress uncovered the relationship in a series of emails released by the State of Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Keystone Progress had attempted to get this information through a Right to Know request, but Corbett’s office opted to keep the correspondence secret.

Fourteen state attorneys general have filed suit to overturn the Affordable Healthcare for America Act, the federal healthcare reform law. Corbett has repeatedly denied that his efforts are political, despite the fact that he agreed to join the suit even before he had read the healthcare reform law. The lawsuit was filed just seven minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law.

The emails reveal that the staff of the attorneys general have been working with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). RSLC describes itself as “the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the office of Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislator.”1 RSLC is organized as a 527 organization which has contributed over $58 million to elect Republicans at the state level.

RSLC was Corbett’s largest contributor during his race for reelection as attorney general, giving him $691,000, according to the PA Department of State.2

The emails list David Sumner, Senior Deputy Attorney General and Ann Marie Kaiser, Director of Legislative Affairs as participants in the email exchange that included Ben Cannatti, the Political Director of RSLC.

Cannatti is described on the RSLC website as “the RSLC’s Political Director since the group’s inception in 2002. Working with the RSLC political staff, Ben oversees the expenditure of millions of dollars each year and developing the committee’s political strategy and tactics in attorneys general, state legislative, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state races across the country.”3

The email exchange was obtained by Keystone Progress from One Wisconsin Now (OWN). OWN got the emails by filing a public records request with the Attorney General of Wisconsin, J.B. Van Hollen.

Keystone Progress asked for the same information from Attorney General Tom Corbett’s office, but was denied. “Now we know why Corbett refused to comply with the Right to Know Law,” said Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress. “He wanted to keep these emails secret.”

The emails that were released do not reveal much detail about strategy, but they expose the long-denied political motives of the suit.

“We believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” added Morrill. “There are undoubtedly going to be more revelations about the political nature of this suit. Corbett should learn from history and release all related correspondence now. The cover-up is always worse than the original act.

1 Republican State Leadership Committee website
2Pennsylvania Department of State

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Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive network with over 200,000 subscribers. Keystone Progress is also a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.