On November 16, 2017 Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap asked a federal court for an injunction to force the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI) – on which Dunlap serves as a member – to stop withholding key information.
“I had hoped filing the complaint would convey to the commission that I’m serious about fully participating in the work awaiting us,” said Sec. Dunlap. “Unfortunately, that intention has not been met, and instead I see media reports filled with attacks and recriminations directed at me for asking for our working papers and work schedule. I’m left with the regrettable choice to push the matter further in the courts.”
Having repeatedly been denied access to commission documents and information, Secretary Dunlap filed a lawsuit on November 9, 2017 to force the commission to share records to which he is entitled, such as meeting materials, correspondence between commissioners and communications with witnesses. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires that all commissioners have access to the same level of information used by the commission, but Sec. Dunlap’s repeated requests for this information have been rebuffed.
In response to the lawsuit, rather than pledging to work in good faith to facilitate Sec. Dunlap’s participation, the commission’s Vice Chairman Kris Kobach called the lawsuit “baseless and paranoid,” and commissioner Hans von Spakovsky said Sec. Dunlap “should be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit and should resign from the commission.”
The motion filed today asks the U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to order the PACEI to immediately provide the requested documents, enable Sec. Dunlap to participate in PACEI business.
By filing for a preliminary injunction, Sec. Dunlap foreshortens the time frame for the government to respond to the complaint from two months to one week. This will ensure Sec. Dunlap is properly informed about upcoming commission activities. A mailer from the Minnesota Voters Alliance indicated, for example, that a commission hearing was planned for December, but Sec. Dunlap has received no notice of any such meeting.
Sec. Dunlap’s suit is based on the 1999 D.C. Circuit Court decision Cummock v. Gore, in which the court held that commissioners may not be denied access to information. Sec. Dunlap is represented by nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight and the law firm of Patterson Belknap, based in New York City.