Electoral College, Featured, Legal, National Popular Vote, Politics, Sherrie Peif, Transparency

Ethics group suing Secretary of State Jena Griswold over lack of transparency in open records request

DENVERSecretary of State Jena Griswold is facing her first lawsuit since being sworn into office just five months ago.

Judicial Watch, a conservative Washington D.C.-based organization is suing Griswold for communication records she refused to turn over through a Colorado Open Records Act Request.

Griswold could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to its website, Judicial Watch “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law” through litigation, investigations and public outreach.

The records are related to a bill passed by the Colorado General Assembly that pledges Colorado as part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would award Colorado’s presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of whether that candidate won Colorado.

The compact will only become effective if enough states sign on to total 270 votes, which is the number of electoral votes needed to elect a president. There is an ongoing petition effort to put a repeal referendum of the legislation on the ballot for the 2020 election.

Jenna Griswold

Griswold refused to turn over certain documents in the request, claiming “work product,” despite a provision in Colorado’s law that allows elected officials to waive that provision.

According to the General Assembly website, work product protects documents from release if they are “materials assembled for the benefit of elected officials by one of the General Assembly’s staff agencies for the purpose of assisting an elected official in reaching a decision within the scope of their authority, and documents related to the drafting of bills or amendments. Work product also includes research performed by Legislative Council Staff, when the research is requested by a member of the General Assembly and is identified by the member as being in connection with pending or proposed legislation.”

The suit was filed on behalf of  Todd Shepherd, a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon. Shepherd, who also co-founded Complete Colorado before moving to Washington, filed for several documents on February 4 pertaining to an Electoral College debate concerning the National Popular Vote (NPV) Bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Jared Polis.

In the request, Shepherd asked for: “A copy of all writings created or received by any of the named persons below, between and including the dates of January 14-30, 2019, which contain any of the following keywords (ignoring case): “national popular vote” or “national popular vote interstate compact” or “NPV” “NPVIC” or “SB 42” or “SB-042” or “SB-42” or “19 42” or “19-42” or “Electoral College” and from the following persons: Griswold, Ben Schler, Jud Choate, Jennie Flannigan, Serena Woods, and Shad Murib, Mark Grueskin and/or Ted Trimpa.”

Shepherd also requested any emails which includes any email address as a sender or receiver ending in @rklawpc.com, and @trimpagroup.com.

Griswold ran her campaign based almost entirely on government transparency. In addition to testifying before the Colorado General Assembly in support of the NPV bill, Griswold also testified on a campaign finance bill saying in part:

“I believe that the majority of us here can agree that transparency is good for democracy and we can do more … Trust in government is at an all-time low, but we can work together to answer our constituents’ call for leadership. Let’s take action to build a democracy that all Coloradans can believe in and pave the way as a leader for the nation.”

Todd Shepherd

Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler is representing Shepherd in the suit.

Griswold has also come under fire recently for getting involved in a debate over abortion regulation by using her office to exert economic sanctions on Alabama for recent anti-abortion legislation in that state.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the litigation was important to get a clear picture of who played a role in the NPV bill.

“Leftists in Colorado and other states want to undo the Electoral College and the U.S. Constitution in the hopes of guaranteeing control of the presidency,” Fitton said in a news release. “This attack on the Electoral College would give large left-leaning states and voter fraud an unconstitutionally outsized impact on the outcome of our presidential elections.”

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