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Editorial: Count the ways

Editorial: Count the ways

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File this one under I, for Irony: Until the claim backfired, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tried to insist his office is not subject to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

The AG responds to FOIA requests as a courtesy, his spokesman said the other day — but has no legal obligation to do so. Why? Because the office is a constitutional one and therefore not a public body.

Cuccinelli arrived at this conclusion on the basis of a 2011 court ruling about the State Corporation Commission.

Yet as Roanoke Times’ reporter David Ress, who broke the story, notes, Virginia law explicitly states that “constitutional officers shall be considered public bodies and, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, shall have the same obligations to disclose public records as other custodians of public records.

So how did the attorney general’s position seem ironic? Let us count the ways:

A believer in original intent is ignoring the plain meaning of the law.

To do so, he rests his case on an appeal to judicial authority that he shows little regard for in other cases — such as Roe, Kelo, or the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling upholding Obamacare.

He thereby seems to suggest a state agency with a staff of dozens and a budget of $36 million has to disclose less than, say, a researcher at the University of Virginia whose work has been questioned by right-wing activists. Cuccinelli spent two years and untold sums trying to pry loose the private correspondence of climatologist Michael Mann. Poor Mann — if only he had had the presence of mind to claim he was, like the AG’s office, not a “public body.”

Cuccinelli was wise enough to reverse that stance within the span of a news cycle. If only he had been wise enough not to make it in the first place.

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