Hawaii turns tables on Arizona Secretary of State’s birther requests
Hawaiian officials have apparently had enough of your requests for President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and they’re not afraid to tell you where to get off, even if you are Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett or a special delegation sent by Maricopa County’s controversial “Sheriff Joe.”
Talking Points Memo obtained emails yesterday detailing the occasionally testy exchanges between Bennett and Jill T. Nagamine, Hawaii’s Deputy Secretary of State. Bennett, who is a co-chair of former Massachusetts governor and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign, announced last Thursday that “it’s possible” President Obama may not appear on the Arizona ballot in November. TPM filed a public records request on Monday to obtain the correspondence between Bennett’s office and Hawaiian officials, and the results are hugely entertaining.
It appears that the State of Hawaii’s first response to Bennett’s request of President Obama’s birth certificate was to quickly dash out a letter on March 17 with a series of hyperlinks, including one to the Hawaii Department of Health’s website and three links to Hawaii’s Revised Statutes concerning the confidentiality of vital records.
The state of Hawaii has gone to great lengths to handle the years of backlogged requests by so-called “birthers” looking for the president’s birth certificate. In spite of the White House’s decision last year to release the president’s long-form birth certificate, the Hawaii Department of Health is still receiving an average of 50 new requests each month.
Bennett’s office replied on March 30 that if they could not have a certified copy of the actual birth certificate sent to them, then they would need the Department of Health to verify the details of Obama’s birth and parentage and fill out an enclosed form. The email also requested that department officials verify that the copy of the birth certificate released by the White House matches the document on file in Hawaii.
On April 16, Bennett emailed again asking what was taking so long. Nagamine replied that she would check with the Department of Health to see if they had received Bennett’s request. Two weeks later, on May 1, Arizona’s Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake emailed, insisting that he needs Hawaii’s help to quell suspicions about the president’s legitimacy.
“I am wondering whether you can give me a ballpark timeframe on our request,” wrote Drake, “As you know, the closer we get to November, the more my phone rings. I believe that having Hawaii’s response on hand might help to quell the inquiries!”
At this point, Nagamine turned the tables on Bennett’s office, demanding verification that they were qualified to seek verification of the president’s birth. “My client, the Department of Health, has forwarded your request for verification of President Obama’s birth record to me,” she wrote, “We need more information to substantiate that you are eligible to receive verification.”
Bennett huffily replied, “As the chief elections officer for the State of Arizona and pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes, sections 16-212, 16-301, 16-502, 16-507 and others, my office is tasked with quadrennially compiling a list of candidates for the Office of the President of the United States.” He asserted that his office is the one that is being overtaxed by requests for proof of the president’s citizenship, and that Nagamine’s refusal to follow his instructions, “will dramatically exacerbate an already untenable situation.”
Nagamine’s response on Saturday, May 19 was to again request verification of Bennett’s legitimacy to receive the information, and to point out that the statues of Arizona law he directed her to in his email were not in fact germane to the discussion, but rather pertain to “election of presidential electors, nomination of candidates for printing on official ballot of general or special election, form and contents of ballot, and presentation of presidential candidates on ballot.”
She concluded that “none, as far as I can tell, establish the authority of the Secretary of State to maintain and update official lists of persons in the ordinary course of his activities. If I have missed something, please let me know. My client stands willing to provide you with the verification you seek as soon as you are able to show that you are entitled to it.”
Later that day, Bennett went on AM talk radio to decry Hawaii’s refusal to cooperate with his demands. He re-iterated that if his requests for proof of the president’s citizenship are not met, then President Obama will not appear on the Arizona ballot in November.
On Saturday, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain assured the public in an interview with Arizona’s KPNX, “The president of the United States is not going to be taken off the ballot.” Some have speculated that Bennett’s decision to play to the “birther” elements of the electorate is a purely political gambit on his part ahead of a run for governor in 2014.
This morning, Arizona’s embattled Sheriff Joe Arpaio confirmed that he sent a deputy from his “threats unit” to Hawaii, along with a volunteer tasked with investigating the matter. They arrived in Hawaii on Monday and flashed badges at Hawaii Department of Health personnel, announcing that they had been sent by the State of Arizona.
When quizzed by reporters as to what specific threats necessitate such measures, Arpaio cited “security issues…that I can’t got into.”
The sheriff, who has recently been charged by the Justice Department of waging a systematic campaign of civil rights abuses against Latino citizens, confirmed that the two-man posse traveled to Hawaii and stayed there on taxpayer funds. He said that he hopes that the costs will be covered by donations to the sheriff’s department, which are being collected through the birther website, WorldNetDaily.