John Klar: Attorney general demands $7K to release state correspondence with Planned Parenthood

Michael Bielawski/TNR

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is an outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood. In response to a public records request, his office identified more than 3,000 communications between his office and Planned Parenthood. However, he claims it will cost $7,232.33 for his office to deliver the documents.

By John Klar

Vermont’s attorney general, TJ Donovan, has been an outspoken advocate of charging fees to the public for obtaining copies of public records. Ironically, Donovan asserts that this position is founded on a desire to protect the public financially. The purpose of public record availability is to assure accountability, but accountability is countered when a government agency may unilaterally create a financial roadblock to the availability of records.

The rationale employed by Mr. Donovan for charging fees for record requests is that “[m]ost of the requests for records possessed by the Attorney General’s Office are from private law firms and companies.” He writes that professional time invested reviewing records:

[It’s] also time that my team could be spending on protecting consumers, addressing the opioid epidemic, advocating for civil rights, and ensuring that we have access to clean water and clean air. There is a cost to Vermonters associated with diverting attorney time and resources from my office’s mission. More to the point, should we provide free legal work to law firms and companies that may take an adverse position to the policies of our state?

Thus, Vermont’s attorney general argues that valuable attorney time should not be invested examining records for lawyers when those attorneys could be doing stuff for citizens. But this categorizes all record requests as “free legal work [for] law firms and companies that may take an adverse position to the policies of our state.” In fact, such requests constitute less than half of those received by the A.G.’s office. Perhaps law firms and corporations should pay fees for access to records, but what about the average citizen — the one for whom the statutes were created? The attorney general throws that baby out with the litigious corporate bathwater.

Consider the enormous energy invested by the Vermont attorney general’s office to help draft and enact H. 57, Vermont’s expansive abortion law. Consider also the strong political support TJ Donovan receives from Planned Parenthood, which he openly courts. He testified in favor of H. 57, promotes the passage of Proposal 5 (a state constitutional amendment protecting abortion), helped secure funds for Planned Parenthood after Vermont refused federal aid in protest over abortion restrictions, and filed suit against health care workers’ rights to object to participate in abortions on grounds of conscience.

This was the response to a recent (non-corporate) records request seeking correspondence between his office and Planned Parenthood:

The estimated cost of complying with your PRA request is $7,232.33. This represents gathering, review, redaction, copying, and production of an estimated 3,000+ emails and other documents.

This is a very different situation from the one employed by the attorney general to justify charging fees for copies, where he argued that “there is a cost to Vermonters associated with diverting attorney time and resources from my office’s mission.” In this instance, the attorney general is imposing a $7,232.33 fee on the opportunity of citizens to examine the details of “his” office’s mission to draft and enact abortion legislation. The A.G. is charging taxpayers on the premise that he is protecting taxpayers, while employing the false pretense of corporate litigation to prevent accountability for his own potential conflicts of interest.

The abortion records request shows how absurd the attorney general’s position is:

This is about advocating for a system that promotes transparency while balancing access to records with legitimate legal protections afforded to our clients and members of the public while protecting the Vermont taxpayer[.] … I will continue to promote transparency, advocate for the rule of law, and protect the Vermont taxpayer.

If there is any elected position for which unbiased objectivity is important and expected, it is that of attorney general. The question for Vermont’s taxpayers is this: how transparent is their attorney general when he deploys taxpayer resources to prevent taxpayer access to his apparent conflicts of interest, by falsely alleging that most records requests are filed by lawyers and corporations?

Taxpayers in Vermont must now pay $7,232.33 in copy fees to parse through what is apparently a massive cache of communications between a politically biased attorney general and perhaps the largest super-PAC in the country. But that smoking gun is too expensive and voluminous for Vermont taxpayers to examine — only a law firm or corporation could afford such exorbitant fees.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. He is running for governor in 2020. This article originally appeared at

Images courtesy of Vermont Secretary of State's Office and Michael Bielawski/TNR

11 thoughts on “John Klar: Attorney general demands $7K to release state correspondence with Planned Parenthood

  1. Another great reason to get rid of the Democrats and other assorted lefties. One party rule is killing our state..there’s no one to enforce the rule if law.

    • Yeah, and the one party has been hiding under the banner of the Democratic Party no less.

      We can not fix the problem if we do not correctly identify in this case the pathogen that has engorged itself on the Vermont citizen. This parasite is killing the host, just like it has done in any country that has contracted this parasite.

      The new world order, UN socialism, progressives, sjw, communism, can not work with a society and bring it up from the bottom and make it strong, peaceful, prosperous. No they need a strong host on which to suck the life from. This is the true malaise that has affected Vermont. It takes away hope, which is why our suicide rates, our epic drug rates are going through the roof. These people don’t love Americaan principles that work and are great, they are not educated, or they know well what they are doing and are questing for power, control and fame.

      It’s these parasites to the American way of life that purposely created and perpetuate the divide, it didn’t just happen. We can’t fall for their trap.

      There are many Vermont democrats that love America and Vermont that have No place to go, both sides have created such a divide and hatred that the chasm is deep and wide, making it near impossible in our state to heal.

      Healing our state is the key to healing our nation. We’ve got a bad case of parasitic loss, we have tha largest divide, the most vitriolic atmosphere, epic case of nybyism we need to turn to The corner……and Love our American Neighbor.

      We need a divine intervention, fruit of the spirit, Love, Joy and Peace. It’s what our country was founded on.

  2. Ole TJD is out of line. Most of the data is electronically filed and a simple push of the button can send without “hours and paper work”. This has been paid for by the taxpayer, including salaries, and overhead to maintain. Charging $7+K is double billing. TJD is putting financial access fences in place to ward off supplying.

    Here’s the VT statute, The Secretary of State has to be involved.

    Title 1 : General Provisions Chapter 005 : Common Law; General Rights
    Subchapter 003 : Access To Public Records (Cite as: 1 V.S.A. § 316)
    § 316. Access to public records and documents

    (d) The Secretary of State, after consultation with the Secretary of Administration, shall establish the actual cost of providing a copy of a public record that may be charged by State agencies. The Secretary shall also establish the amount that may be charged for staff time, when such a charge is authorized under this section. To determine “actual cost,” the Secretary shall consider the following only: the cost of the paper or the electronic media onto which a public record is copied, a prorated amount for maintenance and replacement of the machine or equipment used to copy the record, and any utility charges directly associated with copying a record. The Secretary of State shall adopt, by rule, a uniform schedule of public record charges for State agencies.

    Beware of controlling rogue bureaucrats.

    • 🙂 Yeah, he’s part of the crew that’s taken over the Democrats in Vermont. This crew doesn’t like freedom, sunlight, transparency, nor a free press. They like things tightly controlled, everything tightly controlled by a few people in power, but then that is the definition of socialism.

      Vermont has a huge infiltration of socialist leaders hiding under cover of the Democratic Party.

  3. Are people tired of this corrupt official yet? Vermont government has D- rating for integrity and TJ is trying to make it an F.

  4. Call his bluff raise the money, start a go fund me campaign, Vermonters would probably raise the money very quickly. Not only that advertise the go fund me on Vt Digger, and when tv digger denies you the advertisement you can expose two sophist dirt bags at once! It would be a bogo, buy one get one free!

    Who says exposing corruption can’t be fun!

  5. What a dirtball. $7,232.33? How much did it cost to come up with such a precise amount? Come on, is this a joke? Sounds like a big lie to me. Could have been $7,232.34, or maybe $7,232.98. Maybe even only $7,231.98.
    This guy must be the kind of lawyer somebody said something about.
    Tell you what, TJ Hooker: I’ll cover the 33 cents. Just send me a pre-addressed postpaid envelope, and I will send a check for that amount.
    Gotta save money, can’t just be sharing public information with the taxpayers. It’s for the children, don’t you know. Ask again, and it will be $8,552.66, plus a surcharge for not being sufficiently obsequious.
    TJ means Terrible Joke. Maybe Total Jerk.

  6. TJ, what a disgrace to the office, the only reason he wants to implement a $7K fee
    is to hinder people from getting the data that will show what PPH really is …..

    TJ, just another Liberal Hack

  7. This is a great ploy to hide information. Hire an attorney to work for the government but leave the records for that work in the office of the private attorney, thereby circumventing the law. If private attorney are hired, all work and correspondence performed belong to the client (government) and should be held by the government to be available to the public. People distrust their government because of things like this-the perception that something is being hidden.

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