It’s time for Governor Abbott to release his emails

Derek Poludniak

Politicians are private citizens. That’s according to Governor Greg Abbott, who is pulling every excuse out of the book to keep his emails from being released in accordance with Texas’ open records laws.

Texas has some of the most lenient open records laws in the country. With few exceptions, anyone can request the emails of elected officials and they must obey. The amount of information the public has a right to know varies on the public official’s willingness to comply.

Out of all the elected officials in the state, Texans would expect Greg Abbott to be the most accessible of them all. In 2005, the then Attorney General received an award for his open government policies. He ran his gubernatorial campaign on the idea of an “open, honest government” and once elected, implemented new policies that gave hope the Perry era of reluctant transparency had come to an end. Times have changed.

In a recent report, the Associated Press requested information perceived to be public from Abbott. In response, the governor’s office provided seven pages of blank schedules and no emails from his official account. This marked a significant departure from Abbott’s early days in office when his emails were relatively available to the public. Now, Texas is taking a step backward, leaving Texans in the dark when it comes to holding the Governor accountable.

“[Abbott is] communicating within the government — with other government officials. And that email address ought not be confidential,” former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire told The Texas Tribune.

Abbott knows the law and uses it well, invoking what few exemptions there are to justify his withholding information from the public. When loopholes don’t work, Abbott turns to Attorney General Ken Paxton for advice. This is the same Paxton whose understanding of the law led to an indictment on felony charges. By doing everything he possibly can to keep this information private, Abbott is no longer a champion for open government but a desperate hypocrite.

“It’s hard to believe that so many emails would fall into that category [of exclusion],” Kelley Shannon from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas said. “Overall, almost all emails should be public information with the rare exception.”

Despite what Governor Abbott believes, politicians are not private citizens. The public elected him to lead the state and voters have a right to know if he is living up to his promises. By withholding his emails, Abbott cannot be held accountable. If there is nothing to hide, then it’s time for Governor Abbott to release his emails.

Poludniak is an international relations and global studies sophomore from San Antonio. Follow him on Twitter @DerekPoludniak.