Jan. 7, 2002
Bush Gubernatorial Records Should Be Available Under Texas Law, Not Kept Secret in Father?s Library
Texas Records Law Applies Even Though Papers Are in Father?s Presidential Library, Public Citizen Tells Texas Attorney General
AUSTIN, Texas ? President George Bush should not be permitted to hide his gubernatorial papers from the public by squirreling them away in his father?s presidential library, Public Citizen said in comments filed with the Texas Attorney General?s Office.
Public Citizen?s comments oppose an attempt to place the records of former Gov. Bush, amassed during his term in state office, outside the reach of state laws requiring public access to them. Bush has designated his father?s presidential library, operated by the federal government, as the repository for his gubernatorial records, creating uncertainty about whether the records remain available to Texas citizens under state law. Although Texas law permits the former governor to designate a repository for his papers, the records remain state property subject to public access under the Texas Public Information Act, Public Citizen?s comments show.
The Bush papers have been in a kind of legal limbo at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station since Bush left the governor?s office. Requests for access to them by some reporters have been met with lengthy delays that violate the Texas Public Information Act, which requires that public information be made available within 10 days of a request.
Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, at the request of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and Gov. Rick Perry, is now considering the status of the Bush records and will issue an opinion on the subject within six months. Among the issues under consideration: whether the Bush records are still the property of the state, whether they remain available to the public under the state?s Public Information Act, and whether the State Library and Archives Commission must approve the terms under which the papers will be administered by the Bush Presidential Library. Public Citizen?s comments were filed at the invitation of the Attorney General?s Office.
“Our comments show that the Bush papers are state records under state law and that the former governor has no power to give them away,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Nor does the former governor have the ability to place his papers beyond the reach of the Public Information Act. Although a special statute permits him to designate a repository for his papers, that designation determines only where the papers are stored, not who owns them. In addition, the statute makes clear that the approval of the State Library and Archives Commission is required to ensure that the papers remain available to the public as required by state law.”
Added Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen?s Texas director, “These papers belong to the people of the state of Texas, not to George W. Bush. He can?t hide them or give them away, and putting them in his daddy?s library doesn?t change that one bit. This is a part of a pattern and practice of George Bush and his cronies to hide the records of their deeds.”
Click here to read the comments, filed late last week.