A liberal watchdog group has filed a public-records lawsuit against Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost alleging he illegally failed to turn over documents about his work with the Republican Attorneys General Association and a related organization.
The Center for Media and Democracy, a Madison, Wisconsin-based nonprofit, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in the 10th District Ohio Court of Appeals in Columbus seeking an order requiring the disclosure of records withheld by Yost and his office.
The organization contends the GOP group and its Rule of Law Defense Fund “promote and coordinate actions” among the nation’s top GOP legal officeholders, including Yost, to benefit corporations and Republican “electoral interests.”
“Yost and his staff appear in their official capacity at RAGA and RLDF events, participate in RAGA-coordinated official actions, and discuss legal strategies and policy with corporate lobbyists,” the group alleged in a news release.
Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said in an email: “We provided the documents that are legally required and reflect the official business of the office.” The Dispatch then requested the documents the office provided to the Center for Media and Democracy.
The Center for Media and Democracy claimed in its lawsuit, filed by Columbus lawyer Fred Gittes, that when it sought communications between Yost and his office with the Republican attorneys general group beginning in March, it was told they were not public records and later informed no such records existed.
Records lawsuits against other GOP attorneys general found RAGA-related correspondence from Yost and his office with others, but Ohio’s attorney general still refused to turn over records when informed of their existence, the lawsuit claims.
“Attorney General Yost’s bid to keep secret his dealings with industry-funded influence groups about official actions he is taking on behalf of Ohio is a clear violation of Ohio’s public records law and cannot be allowed to stand,” Arn Pearson, the Center for Media and Democracy’s executive director, said in a statement.
A copy of Yost’s appointment calendar showed events redacted, or blacked out, on the dates of RAGA and the Rule of Law Defense Fund events, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit contends RAGA coordinates and influences Yost and other attorneys general in the execution of their public duties.
It points to a Yost friend of-the-court action to disallow some Pennsylvania presidential votes and a letter joined by others asking a federal judge to dismiss the criminal case against Trump-pardoned ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The lawsuit seeks imposition of a $100-a-day fine for failing to turn over public records and the payment of legal fees and costs.
The group’s lawyer, Gittes, said in a statement: “Attorney General Yost plays a key role related to Ohio’s public records laws. He knows they are to be applied in favor of disclosure. His refusal to provide these records concerning how his public work may have been influenced by private moneyed interests belies his repeated claims to be an advocate for open government.”
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost faces lawsuit alleging he won’t turn over records on GOP group