State House and Senate leaders told the Utah Democratic Party yesterday, they will have to pay more than nine thousand dollars if they want to see the remaining redistricting documents they asked for in a GRAMA request. The party had requested a fee waiver based on the argument that release of the records was primarily in the public interest. But the Legislative Records committee rejected the Party’s request for a fee waiver in a 3 to 1 vote. House Democratic leader David Litvack voted against his own party, saying the request primarily benefits the political interests of Democrats.
"This request was made in the words of the Democratic Party chair for the purpose of weighing litigation. That is why I come to the decision that while there is no doubt in my mind or any concern about this decision being made public, that it’s still the primary benefit of the requester," he says.
The Chair of the Utah Republican party Thomas Wright offered to pay the fee, and accused the Dems of using the issue for political advantage.
"What the Utah Dems are doing is wrong," Wright says. "They are not being forthright. They are abusing the system by trying to take a common sense principle of openness and transparency and twisting it to serve their own political interests. I can’t let the Dems hijack a common sense principle, and the American tradition of paying our own way instead of asking tax payers to do it."
But the lawyer representing the Democratic Party, Joe Hatch, rejected the offer on principle.
"We’re not going to accept that. That’s ridiculous. They shouldn’t have to pay the fee. We shouldn’t be paying the fee. Even if these requests are partisan, they’re primarily in the public interest, and they should be online for everybody," he says.
Hatch says the Democratic Party is reviewing the decision, and may take the case to District Court.