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Chris Christie Is Now Waging 23 Court Battles to Keep State Documents Secret

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/chris-christie-transparency-records-requests

Chris Christie Is Now Waging 23 Court Battles to Keep State Documents Secret
There's a lot the New Jersey Republican doesn't want you to know.


— Molly Redden on Wed. February 4, 2015 6:30 AM PDT

- snip -

Stonewalled by the Christie administration, media outlets have been forced to sue to obtain even routinely disclosed information, such as payroll data. Rather than release documents connected to the George Washington Bridge scandal, pay-to-play allegations, possible ethics violations, and the out-of-state jaunts Christie has made while weighing a run for president, Christie's office and several state agencies have waged costly court battles. As the 2016 presidential primary race draws closer, and Christie considers jumping in, his administration is fighting 23 different open records requests in court.

"The track record is abysmal," says Jennifer Borg, general counsel for the North Jersey Media Group. Her organization, which publishes The Record, has sued the state for public documents a half-dozen times since Christie took office. When a judge determines that the state withheld records illegally—which happens frequently—her group wins legal fees. As of September 2014, Christie's administration had paid $441,000 to North Jersey Media Group and other media outlets for records. And that doesn't count the cost of government lawyers' time.

The fight has become so expensive for the state because when newspapers go to court for these records, they usually win. But winning doesn't automatically produce the sought-after records. "We can and do beat them in court. But as long as they're appealing—I don't want to call it a Pyrrhic victory, but we're not going to get the records," says Walter Luers, an attorney who helped a transparency project run by the state Libertarian Party sue for public access for Christie's travel expenses. "Appeals take two to three years. We're already into the presidential elections. By the time we get these records, Christie could have a new address."

Christie's reluctance to let these records go is understandable. On Tuesday, for example, The New York Times published an investigation of ritzy trips, underwritten by megadonors and foreign leaders, the governor has taken abroad. Some of those accounts were based on public documents that local newspapers obtained through lawsuits.

MORE AT LINK

TOM TOMORROW: The Liberation of Biff



DAILY KOS LINK: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/02/02/1360911/-Cartoon-The-liberation-of-Biff

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