Thursday, April 8, 2010

Corbett Uses Legal Loophole to Delay Providing Information on Partisan GOP Health Reform Lawsuit

Corbett Uses Legal Loophole to Delay Providing Information on Partisan GOP Health Reform Lawsuit

Right to Know request delayed up to 30 days to “determine whether the records requested are subject to access.”

(HARRISBURG)—Keystone Progress filed two Right to Know requests with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office on March 26, seeking copies of all correspondence concerning Tom Corbett’s joining in a lawsuit with 12 other Republican Attorneys General to block the federal Affordable Health Care for America Act signed into law last month by President Obama.

Corbett’s office responded by claiming that “a legal review is necessary to determine whether the records requested are subject to access under this act and the extent and nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period. As provided by in the above statute, the Office of Attorney General will require up to an additional 30 calendar days, or until April 30, 2010, in which to provide a final written response to your request.”

Corbett’s response was signed by Robert A. Mulle, Chief Deputy Attorney General and Right to Know Officer for the Office of Attorney General. Mulle was called by Keystone Progress to clarify their position, but has yet to reply. Mulle’s response was dated April 1, but was postmarked April 3, two days after the deadline under PA’s Right to Know Law.

“What is Corbett hiding?” asked Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “This is a straightforward request for information that has nothing to do with the case itself. Our request is for information about the political aspects of how they determined whether to file a suit on a law that hadn’t even been written. This 30 day delay is not necessary if the AG’s office has nothing to hide.”

Corbett has come under increasing criticism in recent days for politicizing the Office of Attorney General. In addition to the obviously political lawsuit challenging healthcare reform, Corbett has been accused of selectively prosecuting mostly Democrats in the “Bonusgate” scandal, while ignoring Republican malfeasance such as Senator Jane Orie’s alleged use of public funds to help elect her sister, state Supreme court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.

The Right to Know request asked for all correspondence to and from Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett and the Attorney General’s staff with individuals inside and outside of Pennsylvania urging Corbett to file the Republican-orchestrated frivolous lawsuit. Corbett’s announcement of filing his suit occurred before anyone had a chance to read the legislation.

The first request is seeking any correspondence between Corbett and his office and entities outside of the Commonwealth. The Attorney General has coordinated his activities with other attorneys general, even before there was legislation to challenge.

The second filing seeks correspondence between Corbett and his office and Members of the General Assembly and their staff. Legislators were encouraging the Attorney General to file a suit, again even before there was legislation.

Keystone Progress created an online petition ( asking Corbett not to file this lawsuit. More than 10,000 people have signed that petition to date.

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