Ex-Rauner communications chief sues governor, demands emails about abortion law, other topics

By Scott Holland | Jan 10, 2018

Editor's note: This article has been revised to correct errors in an earlier version.

The woman who briefly served as one of the heads of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's communications team is suing his office, demanding the release of emails relating to controversial abortion legislation and other politically-charged topics.

Diana Rickert filed a complaint Jan. 5 in Cook County Circuit Court to secure documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Rickert joined Rauner’s administration in 2017 from the Illinois Policy Institute, where she served as vice president of communications. Rickert later landed at the Liberty Justice Center, which is affiliated with the Illinois Policy Institute. The Liberty Justice Center is representing Rickert in her complaint against the governor’s office.

According to her complaint, Rickert requested the emails in FOIA requests filed in September and October, but got no response. Some of the requests involve emails to or from Kristina Rasumussen, also an Illinois Policy Institute veteran who spent 88 days as Rauner’s chief of staff last year. She quit shortly after Rauner signed House Bill 40, which conservatives say goes too far in expanding and protecting abortion rights in Illinois, including mandating taxpayer funding of abortions for those on Medicaid or state health insurance plans.

At most, Rickert maintained, Rauner’s FOIA officer Christina McClernon responded via email invoking a FOIA clause that gave the office an extra five days to respond, and later indicating files would be sent through “Illinois file transfer,” but “never produced any records responsive” to the original request.

Rickert also sought emails from Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner. Whereas the Rasmussen requests concerned the Department of Innovation and Technology and emails regarding internet browsing history for state employees, the Diana Rauner request invoked “any of the following terms: abortion, HB40, reproductive rights, Personal PAC, Planned Parenthood, Terry Cosgrove,” who is the president and CEO of Personal PAC, a pro-abortion lobbying group.

Again, though Rickert said she received extension requests, she said she never received the requested emails. Rickert requested emails involving the same terms to or from Michael Lucci, another Rauner staffer with IPI experience, as well as emails involving Emily Bastedo, Diana Rauner’s former chief of staff, current chief Molly Kamykowski and former reporter Anne Kavanagh, who now serves on Rauner's communication team.

The emails Rickert seeks related to HB 40 all date to June 1. Rauner signed the bill Sept. 28, prompting a chorus of vitriol from Republican lawmakers and authors who asserted the governor had told them he would veto the bill.

The law’s two key facets are protection on the legality of abortion in Illinois in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision which asserted American women have a constitutional right to abortion, and also requiring the state taxpayer funding of abortion procedures for women on Medicaid or state insurance plans.

Rickert wants the court to force Rauner’s office to produce all the records she requested and to award her associated legal fees. She maintains “Rauner’s office has no justification for failing to timely produce” the records she requested.

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Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Illinois Policy Institute Liberty Justice Center

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