Courts & Crime

Buzzfeed sues Kris Kobach over open records

BuzzFeed is suing Kris Kobach for his refusal to provide emails under an open records request.
BuzzFeed is suing Kris Kobach for his refusal to provide emails under an open records request. File photo

BuzzFeed is suing Kris Kobach.

The website filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court last Friday over an open records request the media organization made regarding the Kansas secretary of state’s emails.

BuzzFeed alleges in the lawsuit that it requested emails from Kobach and in violation of the open records act, the secretary of state’s office “first attempted to impose unreasonable charges, then, in response to BuzzFeed’s appeal of those charges, refused to release any records, claiming they were not public records or were exempt from disclosure.”

Kobach’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Kansas Republican is currently running to become governor of Kansas and serves as vice chairman of President Trump’s election integrity commission.

According to the lawsuit, on June 19 BuzzFeed reporter Kendall Taggart requested copies of emails involving Kobach that contained one or more of a list of 30 terms that included words like immigration, Trump, Bannon, voting and fraud.

The reporter specified the records search cover the time period from May 1 to the date the search was conducted.

The secretary of state’s office responded that the request would cost $1,025.

BuzzFeed responded by writing “such a high fee could potentially limit public access to records,” and appealed the cost estimate.

Sue Becker, senior counsel for the secretary of state’s office, later wrote back and said “the majority of topic-triggered emails that you seek are not public records,” while also saying emails containing several other requested words were also exempted.

She added that Kobach’s appointment to President Trump’s advisory commission on election integrity was not in his official capacity as the Kansas secretary of state.

Kobach’s office used a similar argument in a statement to The Star earlier this year, saying Kobach’s personal emails concerning the commission were not subject to the Kansas Open Records Act.

BuzzFeed says in its lawsuit the denial it received was improper. The website is asking the secretary of state’s office to provide BuzzFeed with the public records the reporter requested and also award Buzzfeed costs and attorney’s fees, among other requests.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw