FOIA Advisor

FOIA Focus: Darin Gibbons, Esq, Director of Investigations, Republican National Committee

FOIA Focus (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment
patriots-logo1 (1).jpg

What are you main responsibilities at the RNC?

I mainly focus on researching and developing public records strategies for Democratic political targets who are potential candidates for president in 2020. Some of these folks are established national figures with solid research already done on them, but others are rising stars and haven’t gained much attention yet. In addition to building a profile of them through news sources, my main focus is digging into public records and court records.

I assume that the vast majority of your FOIA requests, if not all of them, target Democratic politicians.  What types of records are you trying to gather?

There are basic records that I will request for any target after doing some initial research. If they have had held public office or worked as an employee for state or federal government, I will try to request as much as I can of their personnel records, travel logs, gift logs, schedules, and office communications. Often times, this paired with research of news sources can start building a profile of their professional background and allow us to identify areas we may want to investigate further through additional records requests or field research.

What is the most unusual or frustrating response you have ever received to a FOIA request?

When I was at America Rising, we were working on a state governor’s race. The Democrat running was then the attorney general of the state and we were requesting documents from his office. We received a reply from his office that they had a few dozen pages of responsive documents. The election was only a few weeks away and his office, while cooperating, the office seemed to make a few additional steps to fulfill the request, so there was this back and forth that successfully delayed the process until after Election Day.  

What is the most personally satisfying result you have ever had from a FOIA request?

There was one race where a former state attorney general was running for governor. We got some of his expense logs through a records request and they had tried to redact a few things with a black marker. However, when they photocopied it, you could see right through the redactions and we were able to read some of the expenses from his hotel bill, like overpriced waters and alcohol.

If you could change one thing about the FOIA statute, what would it be and why

I think a lot of the exemptions are too broad, and this is often times even worse on the state level. If an agency doesn’t want to cooperate or make it more difficult for you to obtain what you are looking for, the exemptions make it really easy to do that.

If the government would give you unrestricted access to records on any one subject you requested, what would you ask for and why?

Aliens. I want to see all the documents on Area 51, Roswell, the moon landing and space programs and anything in the area of extraterrestrials.

Where were you born/grow up, and which hometown sports teams do you root for the most?

I was born in New York City, but moved to Massachusetts when I was young and grew up in town called Rockport, MA.  Obviously, I root for the five-time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, and other Boston teams, but I don’t follow as closely as football. I’ve also been adopting the Nationals as my National League team, but they’re pretty disappointing every year in the playoffs.

What was your first job ever?  What did you like or not like about it?

Ice cream scooper. Rockport was a small tourist town during the summer so there was a lot of ice cream shops. I worked at one called Sundae’s and I probably gave my friends more free ice cream than I was supposed to.

What was your first job in politics?  Did your candidate win?

The first political job that I got paid for was Charlie Baker for Massachusetts governor in 2010. He didn’t win that year, but ran again in 2014 and won. He’s a genuinely likable guy, and he’s currently the most popular governor in the country.

If you could meet any historical icon, of the past or present, who would it be and why?

Tom Brady.  People forget he was drafted 199th in the draft and completely overlooked. He didn’t come from a football pedigree like a Manning, and he really is the greatest underdog story. Now so many people loathe him outside of New England, but true fans of the sport recognize he is the greatest of all time.

What are your favorite three television shows of all time?

I’d have to say Breaking Bad [including Better Call Saul], Sopranos, and Modern Family (I can watch episodes of this any time, and it always seems to be on tv). 

What is your most memorable travel experience?

I’d probably have to say my birthright trip to Israel. Getting to see the country and travel with 40 other people was a real experience. From holy sites, to Yad Vashem, and Tel Aviv nightlife, it was a very rich trip.