Is there any communication between Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his staff?
According to a request for open records of the communications between Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his senior staff, it was found that he sent a total of 11 emails from January 2022 to July 2023. There were no text messages sent during this time period.
It is possible that there is a logical reason for why it seems like 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 acquired copies of documents containing Cameron’s exchanges with eight individuals from the Executive Office of the Kentucky Attorney General. These records were initially obtained through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, not initiated by HuffPost. The inquiry specifically sought copies of Cameron’s communications made through his public accounts and devices, encompassing emails, attachments, calendar invitations, text messages, and any discussions with senior staff on messaging platforms like 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 specific cases. However, there are no available records for Cameron’s text messages or messaging platforms.
The FOIA office states in its letter that there is no evidence of Cameron communicating with certain senior staff members throughout that period, and it 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 shared all of the records obtained through FOIA with Cameron’s office and inquired about his limited communication with eight of his key aides.
The office initially disregarded HuffPost’s inquiry, so we sent a follow-up a week later. After another week passed, a spokesperson responded with the following statement without attribution.
“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 has very little or no communication with senior staff has not been addressed by the office. HuffPost asked the same question again over two weeks ago, but received no 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 deliberately 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 communication 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 mention that he utilizes a private account to evade scrutiny or due to a 2021 opinion stating that those are not public communications. 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 He had not utilized his key fob or any other type 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 simply a tale about key fobs or emails; it is a narrative about evasiveness and lack of responsibility. And now he aspires to become governor.”