By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The mysterious disappearance of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford caused residents of other states to wonder how much they know about their own governors' whereabouts.
It's something Virginians have been pondering for months.
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who also serves as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, tells his security detail, his staff and his family where he is going -- but not the public.
Governors across the nation vary greatly when it comes to the release of their schedules, but some see fit to tell the public what they are doing.
M. Jodi Rell (R) of Connecticut notifies the lieutenant governor and the media when she leaves the state, even if it's just to neighboring New York. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California notifies reporters when he leaves the state but does not say where he is going. Charlie Crist (R) of Florida releases only a detailed gubernatorial schedule, but his office tells reporters where he is if they ask.
And Martin O'Malley (D) of Maryland provides copies of his full schedule, including out-of-state political trips, in response to requests made under the state's public information law.
Governor's offices in a dozen states -- from Maine to Missouri, Ohio to Oregon -- quickly produced complete daily schedules when asked by reporters last week after news of Sanford's trip leaked. Not Kaine.
His office typically releases a public schedule of gubernatorial events that includes speeches, bill signings and news conferences -- but does not include appointments in his office, activities for the national party or fundraisers for his in-state political action committee, Moving Virginia Forward. Several days might go by with no events listed on his schedule.
Kaine has been unable to halt a growing firestorm by open-government advocates, newspapers and critics over his refusal to disclose his schedule.
The Republican Party of Virginia and the Associated Press recently followed The Washington Post in filing public records requests for Kaine's calendar. The state's largest newspapers and open-government advocates are calling on Kaine to release his calendar. In radio interviews twice in the past week, he has faced sharp questions about his ability to juggle his jobs.
Meanwhile, Republicans are gleefully watching as they try to use the issue to tarnish the reputation of a popular governor in an election year in which a Democrat is trying to ride his coattails into the governor's mansion.
But Kaine continues to refuse to reveal how often he is traveling for the DNC, perhaps preferring to take criticism for failing to disclose his whereabouts than to let people know how much time he is spending out of the state. He has even denied requests that would simply indicate when he was outside Virginia.
R. Creigh Deeds, the Democrat hoping to replace Kaine, is careful not to criticize the governor but said he would handle the issue differently. If elected, both Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell have pledged to disclose complete schedules, including political activities.
"Creigh Deeds is committed to transparency in government," Deeds spokesman Jared Leopold said.
"The citizens must be certain that the governor is attending to the duties for which he was elected," McDonnell said.
Kaine's office cites security and privacy concerns, as well as state law, court rulings and precedent, in declining to release a full schedule of his travels and activities. But the issue has stayed in the news for two weeks, partly because of his changing responses.
Kaine said he can't release past calendars because potential criminals would be alerted to his "pattern of behavior." He said anyone who wants to know where he is can just ask him, but he won't let his spokesmen in his three offices say where he is. He said that the state would pay for his security detail even on DNC business but then said that he had always intended for the DNC to reimburse the state for that cost. (Kaine said the cost so far is about $7,500.)
"Everybody always knows where I am," he said last week on his monthly radio show on WRVA in Richmond, in response to the news about the secret trip Sanford (R) made to Argentina without his security detail. But "everybody" doesn't include the public.
Kaine travels regularly across the country for fundraisers and policy events for the national party. The Post has learned that Kaine has been to North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York in recent months, but there are probably many more trips.
Open-government advocates, media representatives and, yes, Republicans argue that Virginians can't judge whether Kaine is doing his job as governor unless they know where he has been, when he is gone and what he is doing. Since he was sworn in in January 2006, Kaine has notified Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) that he was leaving the country for an extended period once or twice.
Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a nonprofit group in Washington that monitors government ethics issues, said that he did not think Kaine should have taken the DNC job while he was governor, but that since he did, he should be upfront about what he is doing.
"If he is going to do two jobs, he has to do more than the letter of the law," Edgar said. "If he is going to be governor and head of the Democratic Party at the same time, he has a moral responsibility to make as transparent as possible his whereabouts."
Critics said they understand Kaine's security concerns, though they note that even President Obama releases a public schedule, and they challenged Kaine to release his past calendar, as O'Malley does.
"If security and privacy are an issue, surely releasing past schedules even in a scrubbed way shouldn't be a problem," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. "Retroactive disclosure should help bolster public confidence that Governor Kaine's time is being distributed appropriately."