Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine says he is not sure whether he has the authority to release documents from his gubernatorial archives that could provide details about his decision to transfer convicted murderer Jens Soering to the custody of German authorities.
“I don’t even know whether I have the power or not, but I’m glad to answer anybody’s questions about it,” Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, told The Washington Times at a fundraiser Tuesday night for his U.S. Senate campaign.
Republicans are pursuing records from Mr. Kaine’s last year as governor they say could shed light on why he tried to return Soering to Germany instead of allowing him to serve a life sentence in a U.S. prison. The former University of Virginia student is serving two life terms for killing his girlfriends parents in 1985.
Drawing attention to the Soering issue could play well for Republicans. Their front-runner in the 2012 race for the Senate seat of retiring Democrat Jim Webb is former Virginia Sen. and Gov. George Allen, who is known for being tough on crime. If Mr. Allen wins the state party nomination, he would likely face Mr. Kaine.
The state GOP called last week on Mr. Kaine, governor from 2006 to 2010, to release documents that are sealed at the Library of Virginia, claiming that he has the authority. But library spokeswoman Jan Hathcock said she doesn’t know of any provision in the commonwealth code that allows a former governor to open restricted material.
She said the library has received no request for records from Mr. Kaine or the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The NRSC says it has requested documentation of Mr. Kaine’s actions from two correctional facilities and the U.S. departments of State and Justice.
“Folks have come and looked at some of Kaine’s processed records in the last few months,” Ms. Hathcock said. “To our knowledge, no one has indicated that the Soering records are the ones they are seeking.”
The library staff has yet to process and make publicly available electronic records, Ms. Hathcock said. And some documents are required by state code to remain sealed for 75 years, including those that fall under attorney-client privilege.
Mr. Kaine has said he was motivated to make the unpopular decision by a desire to save taxpayer money and because he didn’t anticipate running again for office. He quietly signed Soering’s release just days before leaving office, only to have it promptly reversed by incoming Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican.
“This was a situation where a law signed by President Reagan allowed transfers of this kind because it enables America to bring Americans home,” Mr. Kaine said. “After more than 20 years of imprisonment in Virginia, I thought imprisonment in Germany was the right recommendation.”