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Watchdog Group Sues Ohio Attorney General For Records On Republican Groups

Dave Yost speaks at the Ohio Republican Party event, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Yost was elected as the next Ohio attorney general.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has often spoken about the need for state agencies and office holders to follow the state's "Public Records Act," but now he's accused of failing to do just that. A liberal-leaning watchdog group says Yost has used his official capacity to collaborate in partisan efforts.

The Center for Media and Democracy has filed a lawsuit to compel Yost to turn over documents related to work he’s done with the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Rule Of Law Defense Fund.

"In violation of its obligations under the Act, the Respondent has failed and refused to make records of his involvement with RAGA and RLDF and their influence on the work of his office available, despite the Relators' repeated requests beginning March 10, 2020," the lawsuit reads.

Columbus attorney Fred Gittes represents the Center, which have been trying for months to get copies of communications between Yost and the groups.

“We were initially told that the records requested were not public records under Ohio law, and then when the center explained why they would be, the second response from the Attorney General’s Office was that they had no such records," Gittes says.

The Center says Yost has appeared in his official capacity as Attorney General at both RAGA and RLDF events "discussing legal and policy-focused issues." According to the lawsuit, the groups facilitate discussions between Republican attorneys general and private donors on efforts like legal challenges against the Affordable Care Act and clean air laws. Yost and the groups have also weighed in on non-Ohio issues like President Trump's impeachment by the U.S. House and the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"Although RAGA and RLDF seek to, and do, directly influence the public functions of attorneys general in states including Ohio, upon information and belief, they encourage these attorneys general to cloak their relationship, and the influence of wealthy donors on the use of their public offices, in absolute secrecy," the lawsuits claims.

Gittes says the group already has proof some records exist, but wants more details. A spokeswoman for Yost issued a one-line response, saying the office provided the documents that are legally required and reflect official business.