BuzzFeed is suing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his office for refusing to comply with an open records request for emails containing immigration- and election-related terms. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Shawnee County District Court, says Kobach’s office first asked for $1,025 for 13 hours of work and an attorney’s review, then refused to release any records when a reporter challenged the cost. In denying the request, Sue Becker, senior counsel for KSOS, said records may be unrelated to Kobach’s official business or policy proposals exempt from open records law. BuzzFeed is asking the court to order Kobach’s office to provide the documents as required by the Kansas Open Records Act and pay attorney fees.
Kobach oversees Kansas elections as secretary of state. He also serves on President Donald Trump’s advisory committee on election integrity and is seeking the Republican nomination to run for Kansas governor.
Kendall Taggart, an investigative data reporter for BuzzFeed, sent her request on June 19, asking for emails, including attachments, sent or received since May 1. She asked for emails containing any of 30 terms, including ICE, immigrant, Trump, voter, fraud and Mexican.
A July 5 response signed by BJ Harden, deputy secretary of state for policy, said a staff administrator would need 13 hours to search for the records with an hourly fee of $25, which would cost $325. In addition, a staff attorney would need 20 hours to review the documents with an hourly fee of $35, adding $700 to the bill.