Last week, right before the entire state conveniently checked out for four days of food, family, football, shopping and dangerously high levels of alcohol consumption, Mary Fallin announced that she would not release any emails or documentation related to her controversial decision to turn down federal healthcare funding for Obamacare and Medicaid. The announcement was given in response to an open records request from the Oklahoman.
Yeah, you read that right, the Oklahoman filed an open records request on a Republican governor. Throw it at us while you can, Mayans.
Gov. Mary Fallin’s office will not publicly release emails that could shed light on how she decided to create a state health insurance exchange and then changed her mind.
Last year, she accepted $54 million from the federal government to set up an exchange, an online insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. She later rejected the money under pressure from Republican colleagues…
In response to a records request from The Oklahoman, Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, said these emails involve the governor’s deliberative process and won’t be released.
So, what? She denied access to someone who wants to read her confidential emails. Wouldn’t you do the same damn thing if you were governor? It’s not like she’s breaking the law or anything, right?
Open records advocates say that there is no exemption in the state’s Open Records Act for these emails and that her office is trying to redefine state law to limit public access.
“Governor Fallin wants a privilege of secrecy that apparently none of her predecessors thought was necessary,” said Joey Senat, a media law professor at Oklahoma State University.
Senat said once a personal note or memo becomes a recorded conversation or directive, it’s no longer considered personal. And executive privilege, he said, applies to the federal government and is not listed as an exemption under Oklahoma law.
“This ain’t the White House,” he said.
“Our statute is very clear: If there’s not a state statute that applies directly to those records, then it’s open. What he’s claiming is so broad it would defeat the very purpose of the Open Records Act.”
Wow, so apparently Mary Fallin thinks she’s above the law. Other than resurrecting the Credit Jewelers Cowboy to bring her to justice, how do we get her to release the information? Can’t someone file a lawsuit???
Robert D. Nelon, who has practiced media law in Oklahoma City for 35-plus years, said he’s never heard of an Oklahoma governor refusing to release public records on the basis of executive privilege, though he conceded it is unlikely that anyone would know unless it went to court.
“Certainly Mullins’ approach to transparency is more transparent, but still if you don’t get the documents the Open Records Act requires you to produce, then transparency is pretty meaningless,” he said. “That is a radical departure from what has happened in the past.”
This is pretty interesting stuff. I’ve talked to some Moles and have taken a deep look at this issue. I have three theories about what’s going on here. Here they are:
Theory 1: Mary Fallin has nothing to hide and wants someone to sue her.
Hear me out on this. What if the Governor’s office has nothing to hide? What if the emails are boring and don’t reveal anything juicy or important? They just show us what we already know…that the decision to turn down federal funding was a political decision, and not a rational and logical one, or one that was made in the best interest of Oklahomans.
If that’s the case, it actually makes sense for the Governor to make the info hard to obtain. Then if/when the records are released, the Executive Branch will look golden. Fallin and her staff will wag their fingers and say “Shame on you. Look at all the time you wasted! Now get back to reporting positive news about us.”
This theory would work even better if the Governor’s team could get a news organization to play along. One that’s known for its conservative stance on issues and has a 100-year history of advancing its own right-wing political agenda. One that would file an open records request the week of Thanksgiving and then report the story on Turkey Day when nobody’s paying attention. One that gives its employees copies of The Catcher in the Rye and forces everyone to eat Soylent Green. You know exactly which organization I’m talking about. It’s Magic 104.
Then again, that’s just a silly conspiracy theory. I don’t think the Governor’s office or
the Oklahoman Magic 104 are sophisticated enough to work with each other and pull off some elaborate ruse.
Theory 2: There’s some crazy shit in these emails
This is the more likely theory, which means someone needs to get a hold of these emails immediately! We could be sitting on a gold mine of material. Hell, just look at how crazy her tweets were. I bet Fallin’s emails read a lot like the crazy Facebook postings of a 50-year-old mom from Chickasha. They’re probably riddled with misspellings, written in ALL CAPS, and usually have something to do with God, Obama or The Good Wife. I wouldn’t be surprised if she uses a confetti wallpaper background and Comic Sans, too.
Theory 3: Mary Fallin is using The Key for advice on healthcare legislation
You have to admit this would be pretty awesome. And with The Key’s extensive library of life guidance books and videos, who could blame her for turning to them for help.
Anyway, I think later today I’m going to research how to file one of these open records things and see what info I can get. Remember, we’re not real journalists here, so we have no clue how this stuff works. When our request is denied, maybe we can file a lawsuit. Do any attorneys know how that works? We’ve been sued before, but have never actually filed one. Also, can some rich Democrat with a vendetta finance it? That person would be an instant finalist for the 2012 Ogle Mole of the Year award. Just sayin.