Is there any communication between Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his staff?
According to a request for public records on the communications of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron with his senior staff, it was found that he sent a total of 11 emails from January 2022 to July 2023. However, there were no text messages sent by him to any of his senior staff during that time.
It is possible that there is a logical reason for the lack of communication between Cameron, who is currently the Republican nominee for governor in Kentucky, and his staff.
However, his office consistently declines to provide any information about the current situation.
HuffPost acquired copies of Cameron’s communications with eight staff members from the Executive Office of the Kentucky Attorney General. These records were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, not submitted by HuffPost. The request specifically sought copies of Cameron’s communications through his public accounts and devices, including emails, attachments, calendar invites, text messages, and 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. These nine emails solely consisted of Cameron excusing himself from specific cases. However, there are no available records for Cameron’s text messages or messaging platforms.
The FOIA office states in their letter that there is no evidence of Cameron’s communication with certain senior staff members throughout that period, and they provide the names of these individuals. Additionally, the FOIA office explains the reasons for withholding specific emails, which primarily pertain to drafts 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 engage in communication 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 his eight key aides.
Initially, HuffPost’s inquiry was ignored by his office. Therefore, we decided to follow up after a week. However, another week passed before receiving a response from a spokesperson, who provided 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 behind Cameron’s apparent lack of communication with senior staff, as suggested by public records, was not 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 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 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 being transparent and forthcoming,” she stated. “They might just mention that he utilizes a private account to evade scrutiny or due to a statement he made in 2021 asserting that those communications are not public. Ultimately, this was 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 significant how dismissive they are,” she commented about Cameron’s office. “This is not just about key fobs or emails; it’s about hiding the truth and avoiding responsibility. And now he aspires to become governor.”