Is there any communication between Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his staff?
According to a request for public records, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron communicated with his senior staff through 11 emails between January 2022 and July 2023. No text messages were sent by him to any of his staff members during this time.
It is possible to provide a logical explanation for why it seems that Cameron, who is presently the GOP candidate for Kentucky governor, does not engage in communication with his team.
However, his office consistently declines to provide any information regarding the current situation.
HuffPost obtained copies of records of Cameron’s communications with eight members of the Executive Office of the Kentucky Attorney General staff, originally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The request for these records, which was not put in by HuffPost, specifically asks for copies of Cameron’s communications via his public accounts and devices, including emails, email attachments, calendar invites, text messages and any conversations with senior staff on messaging platforms such as Slack or GChat.
Cameron’s records indicate that he sent two emails to senior staff members in 2022 and nine emails during the first half of 2023. All of these nine emails were solely about Cameron abstaining from involvement in specific cases. However, there are no available records regarding Cameron’s text messages or messaging platforms.
The FOIA office states in their letter that there is no evidence of Cameron communicating with certain senior staff members throughout that period of time, and provides their names. Additionally, the FOIA office explains the reasons for withholding specific emails, which primarily pertain to draft versions of public statements.
Surely Cameron is regularly communicating with his top aides. It could be that he’s using a personal phone and a personal email account for official business, which would raise questions about transparency into what the Kentucky attorney general is saying and doing on the job. It could also be that Cameron sits in close physical proximity to his senior staff in the state Capitol and simply walks over and talks to them.
Could it be possible that Cameron does not actually communicate with his staff?
Last month, HuffPost submitted all of the records obtained through FOIA to Cameron’s office and inquired about the limited communication between him and eight of his key aides.
The office initially disregarded HuffPost’s inquiry, so we sent a follow-up after a week. Another week passed before a spokesperson responded with an unattributed statement.
“As the Commonwealth’s top law enforcement officer, Daniel Cameron is committed to protecting the rights of Kentuckians, fighting the drug epidemic, and being a voice for the voiceless. Attorney General Cameron has routinely met with senior staff in his relentless efforts to rein in the disastrous mandates and unsound overreach handed down by the Biden and Beshear Administrations.”
The reason why public records suggest that Cameron hardly communicates, or doesn’t communicate at all, with various senior staff remains unanswered by the office. HuffPost has inquired about this matter once again over two weeks ago, but has not received any response.
Amye Bensenhaver, a former Kentucky assistant attorney general who specialized in open records and open meetings opinions for 25 years, said Cameron is known for his “disdain for the principles of open government,” a topic she wrote about in a June opinion article in the Lexington Herald Leader.
“I am unsure about the situation, but they are intentionally making things unclear,” she commented about Cameron’s office. “It is illogical to have such a small number of emails exchanged between the attorney general and his executive staff, unless they are constantly together.”
Bensenhaver, who is a founding member of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition, said the weird situation with Cameron’s record of communications is part of a much bigger issue being hashed out in the state. Her coalition is in the middle of a lawsuit in a Kentucky court of appeals aimed at requiring government officials to publicly disclose any public business they conduct on private devices or accounts. It is currently not required.
The lawsuit began in a state district court in 2021 and was filed after Cameron issued a legal opinion in July of that year stating that “when no public funds have been spent to procure the cell phone services, then a public agency does not ‘own’ the text messages.”
According to Bensenhaver, the limited amount of public records regarding Cameron’s interactions with staff is partly due to the wording of the information request. It should have been more inclusive, encompassing private accounts and devices.
“They will provide minimal information rather than maximum information,” she stated. “They might just state that he uses a private account to evade scrutiny or due to a 2021 opinion stating that those communications are not public. Ultimately, this would have been their chance to clarify, but they chose not to.”
HuffPost first spoke to Bensenhaver in July for another story about Cameron and public records. That piece was about the Republican attorney general refusing to explain why open records showed that Cameron hadn’t used his key fob or any other kind of security card to get into the Capitol, where his office is, for the last three years. Bensenhaver said she sees the two stories as bookends to the same concerning problem.
“I find it quite revealing how dismissive they are,” she commented regarding Cameron’s office. “This is not just about key fobs or emails; it’s about intentionally confusing matters and avoiding responsibility. And now he aspires to become governor.”