Highlighting a theme GOP strategists have been using recently to attack Jerry Brown, the Republican Governors Association launched a Web site this week calling on the former governor to release more than 2,000 boxes of records documenting his first two terms in the governor's office.
The site accuses Brown of refusing to release the records, which are stored at the University of Southern California and can only be released to the public under Brown's direct authoritzation. The site includes a petition, filled largely with anonymous signatures and anti-Brown missives, designed to pressure Brown into granting blanket authorization for the public to view his records.
Obviously, the GOP's claims of Brown's secrecy should be taken with a grain of salt. As we reported earlier this week, the former governor has recently authorized at least six people to view his papers. According to the Attorney General's office, the Brown campaign and a USC librarian we spoke with, the former governor has not turned down any requests.
However, that openness may soon be put to the test. Yesterday, a team of researchers from Republican front-runner Meg Whitman's camp filed a request to see the records. Republican researchers see Brown's archives as a treasure trove of information that they could use to attack the candidate for his past record in office.
As our friend Carla Marinucci at the San Francisco Chronicle noted yesterday, the RGA isn't the only one who has made an issue of Brown's records. Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition wrote recently in the Huffington Post:
"Under an obscure provision of the Public Records Act (Gov Code section 6268), governors, once they leave office, have the option of locking away their gubernatorial records for a "period of 50 years or the death of the Governor, whichever is later."
"Jerry Brown has exercised this option, which means that all the public records of his governorship-including the anti-tax groundswell that resulted in Prop 13, Brown's opposition to the death penalty, his battles with California's oil companies over tax and environmental issues, and much more-are exempt from the Public Records Act."
Meanwhile, Democratic operatives have been busy crafting their own secrecy narrative to go after Whitman, attacking her for her refusal thus far to release her tax returns. Whitman has waffled in recent weeks about when and in what form she would make her returns available, drawing criticism from Democrats.