- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

RICHMOND | Gov. Tim Kaine’s office has rejected a second request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act for records of where he has traveled, when and for whom.

Mr. Kaine’s office on Monday denied an Associated Press request for information on where the chief executive and Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman has traveled, on whose behalf, and what it cost.

The administration cited the same state law and 1991 state Supreme Court ruling it invoked last week in denying a FOIA request from the Republican Party of Virginia.

The past four governors have used the same basis to shield a wide range of documents from public view.

Mr. Kaine did release a fragmentary 15-line spreadsheet. It reflects a three-night February stay in Washington, $495 in National Governors Association registration fees, and $3,830 in gasoline for vehicles assigned to the governor’s office.

It excludes DNC or other travel and some high-profile in-state trips clearly made in his role as governor. For instance, there is no accounting for community-Cabinet day trips in the first half of 2009, including one on April 9 to Martinsville, where he rebuked Republican lawmakers for the previous night’s party-line vote against his proposal to use $125 million in federal economic stimulus money to expand benefits for people who lost jobs in the poor economy.

Interest in the travels of governors spiked after South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford disappeared for several days last month without his state security detail, telling no one his whereabouts.

Mr. Sanford’s saga got more bizarre after he returned home and, in a nationally televised news conference, admitted traveling to Argentina to visit his mistress.

In Virginia, Mr. Kaine’s partially hidden itinerary has opened him to attack from Republicans intent on diminishing his popularity and his ability to aid Democrats running this fall for governor, two other statewide offices and the House of Delegates.

Virginia law uniquely prohibits governors from seeking re-election. An incumbent’s popularity - or lack of it - has influenced gubernatorial races for years.

Democrat Mark Warner in 2001 was elected largely by running less against his Republican opponent, Mark L. Earley, than against the unpopular lame-duck incumbent, James S. Gilmore III, who was outside Virginia often that year as Republican National Committee chairman.

Four years later, Mr. Kaine ran as the Democratic heir to Mr. Warner, who left office with job-approval ratings topping 70 percent, the highest on record for a fourth-year Virginia governor.

Many Republican strategists felt after that election they had given a free pass to Mr. Warner, who won a U.S. Senate seat last fall running as a “radical centrist” popular with moderate Republicans. They resolved not to let Mr. Kaine off so easy.

“[Mr. Warner] anointed Tim Kaine as his successor and made it clear he was passing the baton of leadership off to him,” said state Republican chairman Pat Mullins.

Now, with Democratic gubernatorial nominee R. Creigh Deeds pledging to continue in the tradition of Mr. Warner and Mr. Kaine, Mr. Mullins said, “we need to examine the record of Tim Kaine.”

For years, governors have released weekly official schedules of public events. Personal travel and political appearances at events such as rallies and fundraisers are not listed, and the political organizations for whom they make those appearances are private and outside the scope of public-records laws.

In turning aside AP’s June 26 request, Kaine communications director Lynda Tran cited the “governor’s working papers” exemption in the state open-records law. She also cited a 1991 Virginia Supreme Court decision that excused then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder from a request for his administration’s telephone records. The court held the request unduly burdensome to the performance of a governor’s duties.

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