This story has been updated to include responses from the commission vice chair Kris Kobach and its executive director Andrew Kossack.
A Democratic member of President Trump’s shady voter fraud commission is suing the commission for allegedly violating federal government transparency laws.
“The Commission’s operations have not been open and transparent, not even to the commissioners themselves, who have been deprived access to documents prepared by and viewed by other commissioners,” Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) alleged in a complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, DC.
Dunlap’s lawsuit is backed by the government ethics group, American Oversight. It comes after Dunlap sent numerous inquiries to the commission’s executive director Andrew Kossack seeking more information about its operations and internal communications. Dunlap alleged in the complaint that the commission is in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a law that other groups have used to bring lawsuits against the commission.
Since its creation last May, the commission has been under intense scrutiny both for its opaqueness and due to the concerns from civil rights groups that it will be used as a pretext to advocate for more restrictive voting laws.
According to Dunlap’s complaint, commission members were informed of controversial letters its vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), planned to send to state officials seeking voter roll information only a few hours before the letters were sent.
Dunlap also alleged that since the commission’s first meeting in July, the communications he’s received about the commission have been limited to a few emails about logistical issues.
“He was not asked to assist in any voting-related work nor was he involved with
any fact gathering or analysis,” the complaint said, adding that by the time the commission held its second meeting in September, the Democrat had received “no substantive information about the meeting, such as prepared testimony, invitations to or correspondence with participants, or materials to be discussed at the meeting.”
After reports that a researcher on the commission had been arrested on alleged child porn charges, Dunlap sent a letter to Kossack demanding more information about the working being done by the commission behind the scenes. He was further frustrated by remarks from a Republican commission member, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, indicating that the commission’s work was on hold due to the various lawsuits against; Dunlap told TPM last month he had not been told that the work was on pause.
According the Thursday’s complaint, Kossack, in his response to Dunlap’s inquiries, refused to confirm that the commission’s operations were on hold, nor did he respond substantively to Dunlap’s requests for more information.
Dunlap’s complaint also raised concerns with the lack of guidance offered to commissioners about email retention.
“Many commissioners, including Defendant Kobach, have used and continue to use personal and nongovernmental email addresses for Commission business,” the complaint alleged.
Kossack, in an statement to TPM, said that the lawsuit had “no merit.”
“We are disappointed that Secretary Dunlap has chosen litigation and conflict over working cooperatively and in a bipartisan manner to achieve the important goals of this Commission, which is to ensure confidence in our voting system,” he said.
Kobach responded to the lawsuit in an email to TPM:
Secretary Dunlap’s lawsuit is baseless and paranoid. In it, he complains that he didn’t receive any correspondence from the Commission during the five weeks between September 12 and October 17. He assumes that correspondence regarding Commission business was occuring [sic] but not being shared with him. Dunlap’s assumption is incorrect. I did not receive any such correspondence either. During that period, Commission work was stalled by three things: (1) litigation defending against eight lawsuits filed by groups seeking to stop or delay the Commission’s work; (2) the loss of commission staff due to an unrelated arrest of a staff member; and (3) the traic [sic] death of Commissioner David Dunn during heart surgery. It is not at all surprising that Commission staff were very busy during this period. Ironically, Dunlapa’s [sic] lawsuit is only going to increase the workload faced by Commission staff and Department of Justice Attorneys
Read the complaint below:
- -Hiring More Journalists
- -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
- -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism