Hands off Ritter’s personal cell phone

by | Aug 12, 2008 | Blog, Notes | 2 comments

Any reader of this website knows that Gov. Bill Ritter never gets a break here — never, until now, that is.

Yesterday, the Denver Post announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Ritter, demanding complete access to his personal cell phone records since they day he became governor.

Ritter’s office has provided records for his Blackberry provided at taxpayer expense but refuses to turn over records for his personal cell phone, to which the Post believes it is entitled under Colorado’s Open Records Act.

Rubbish!

This is nothing more than a fishing expedition by The Post.  Ritter is governor 24/7 — just as other state elected officials are technically on the job 24/7.  If Ritter’s personal cell phone records can be CORAed, then what’s to prevent the Post from doing the same for the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general and all 100 members of the state legislature?

Ritter’s office does not dispute that the governor uses his personal cell phone for “political” calls and for some state business and seems to indicate that if the Post wanted records of specific calls such information could be provided.  That’s entirely reasonable.

I’ve requested public documents from the governor’s office under CORA several times in recent months, and if the Post can demand the total access to the governor’s personal cell phone records, then so can I or anyone else.  And they could demand the same of any other elected official.  That’s utterly absurd.

Moreover, this appears to be nothing more than a fishing expedition.  If the Post were searching for specific evidence of malfeasance or wrongdoing, then a much more narrowly-tailored request might be legitimate.

According to the Post’s bizarre news story — which repeatedly attributes quotes and contentions to “the newspaper” rather than to the newspaper’s attorney or spokesman — “the lawsuit claims that cellphone bills are a public record because they are a ‘writing’ made, maintained or kept by a political subdivision in the “exercise” of a legal function.”

What then would prevent the Post or anyone else from demanding all e-mails sent or received from a personal e-mail account, too?

Anyone who runs for public office soon understands that he or she is surrendering a significant amount of their privacy — but not all of it.  Politicians invite scrutiny of their public record and know that their opponents and the media will often accuse them — with little or no evidence — of being unduly influenced by fancy dinners or political contributions.  But we can hardly expect good people to run for office if their every move can be dissected and distorted.

The Denver Post increasingly behaves like a supermarket tabloid — concocting stories about fallacious “scandals” (see: Bob Schaffer, Abel Tapia) and character assassinations (see: Bob Beauprez, Pete Coors) — yet still wants readers to take it seriously as the paper of record.

Sorry, but I’m not buying it — and haven’t for several years.

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