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  • Sec. Dunlap files lawsuit seeking access to Elections Commission correspondence, information

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the federal Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, filed a lawsuit on November 9, 2017  in an effort to obtain information about the commission’s work.

    Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the suit alleges that the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by excluding Dunlap and others from much of the commission’s work. The Executive Office of the President (EOP) is also a named defendant, as the office is staffing the commission and maintaining its records.

    “Since the Sept. 12 meeting, I have received no correspondence from the commission other than to acknowledge receipt of my information request,” said Sec. Dunlap. “Clearly, there is information about this commission being created and discussed, but I have no access to that information and it has not been provided upon request.

    “My goal in filing this lawsuit is to bring the commission into full compliance with FACA, which would allow me and all of my fellow commissioners to fulfill our roles as full, participating members and provide a meaningful report to the President upon concluding our work.”

    Prior to filing the lawsuit, Sec. Dunlap submitted an information request to the commission on Oct. 17 citing concerns about “a vacuum of information from the leadership or staff.” The FACA requires that all commissioners receive equal information about the commission’s work, but he has not been privy to any discussions related to meeting materials, witness invitations, goals, or outreach. His repeated requests for this information have been rebuffed.

    Dunlap’s suit is based on the 1999 DC Circuit Court decision in Cummock v. Gore, in which the court held that commissioners may not be denied access to information. Dunlap is represented by nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight and the law firm of Patterson Belknap, based in New York City.