Governor turns table on critical representative — asks for e-mails

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | 8:14 p.m. CDT; updated 12:41 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt expanded his fight with Democrats over e-mail archives on Wednesday by requesting digital archives from Columbia Rep. Jeff Harris, a candidate for attorney general.

A day after Harris criticized the governor on the House floor over e-mails, Blunt’s office sent a letter to Harris asking for five years’ worth of archived e-mails, e-mail backups and any documents sent to or from Harris’ office.

Harris called the request “politically motivated” but said he would comply.

On Monday, a lawsuit was filed against Blunt by investigators appointed by Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office. The lawsuit alleges that Blunt’s office intentionally destroyed e-mails in an effort to avoid compliance with an open records request, according to The Associated Press, who filed the initial request.

Harris had harsh words for the governor’s office on Tuesday regarding the lawsuit.

“Who ordered the destruction of these e-mails? Why was the destruction ordered? What was in these e-mails?” Harris asked. “We deserve to know this as taxpayers. And if this governor doesn’t give us answers and give us answers now, then we’ve got to revisit this issue, and we’ll have to see whether he should serve the remainder of his term.”

Blunt’s chief of staff said in a news release Wednesday: “Representative Harris has claimed to be a strong advocate for the Sunshine Act and open government, so we hope and expect he will demonstrate this commitment by providing the information we have requested in the open records request.”

This is not the first time Republicans have sent Sunshine Law requests to Democrats challenging them over e-mail archives. In November, former GOP spokesman Paul Sloca sent letters to 19 Democratic legislators, calling for them to release e-mail archives.

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