Conservative group Judicial Watch on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the University of Delaware demanding access to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s senatorial papers.
The university, which stores and owns the records, has ignored Freedom of Information Act requests from Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF), the lawsuit says.
University officials have denied the requests citing a provision in Delaware law that exempts the school from FOIA requests not related to public funds. They appealed the decision to Delaware’s chief deputy attorney general, who sided with the university.
But Judicial Watch and DCNF say the school hasn’t supported its claim that public funds were not used to store and house Mr. Biden’s papers.
“The Chief Deputy Attorney General accepted the University’s representation that no public funds are used to support the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Senatorial Papers at face value without factual support,” the lawsuit says.
A University of Delaware spokeswoman said the papers are public records and under agreement with Mr. Biden, they can not be made public until they have been processed.
“Vice President Biden donated his Senatorial papers to the University of Delaware pursuant to an agreement that prohibits the University from providing public access to those papers until they have been properly processed and archived,” said spokeswoman Andrea Boyle.
“The University is bound by, and will comply with, the agreement. Until the archival process is complete and the collection is opened to the public, access is only available with Vice President Biden’s express consent,” she continued.
Conservative media outlets have been pressing for access to the Senate papers of Mr. Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2020.
They specifically want access to a request for sexual harassment counseling that a former staffer says she filed in 1993. Tara Reade, who once worked in Mr. Biden’s Senate office, has publicly accused him of sexually assaulting her.
Mr. Biden has denied the allegation.
If the complaint does indeed exist, it would potentially be included in Mr. Biden’s Senate papers.
Mr. Biden has denied the allegations. He has called on the National Archives to release any records that might shed some light on whether a sexual misconduct complaint was ever filed against him.
However, the National Archives says it doesn’t have his Senate records.
Ms. Reade said she believes the papers stored at the University of Delaware could contain notes and personnel records that would support her claims. Mr. Biden has repeatedly insisted relevant documents would not be stored there.
Either way, Judicial Watch and DCNF want all of his records dating back to his first term as a senator in 1973 through his election as vice president in 2009.
All told, the records total more than 1,850 boxes of archival materials and 415 gigabytes of electronic records, the lawsuit says.
The news organizations are also looking for all communications between Mr. Biden and his staff about his Senate records and a list of individuals who have visited the area where the materials are stored.
They have also requested all meeting records of the Board of Trustees during which the proposed release of the records was discussed.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the University of Delaware is “protecting” Mr. Biden.
Neil Patel, co-founder and president of DCNF, vowed to keep the fight in court.
“The University of Delaware should do the right thing and turn over Joe Biden’s public records as required by law,” he said in a statement. “Partisan gamesmanship by a public university is unseemly and unlawful. If they don’t want to do the right thing, we will force them in court.”