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By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press

MT governor claims 'executive privilege' in records request lawsuits

Coming into office last year as Montana’s first Republican governor in nearly two decades and looking to implement a muscular conservative agenda made possible by his party’s unified control of the Legislature and governor’s office, Gov. Greg Gianforte’s leadership has attracted scrutiny from media, environmental groups and left-of-center political activists.

As was intended by the framers of Montana’s 1972 Constitution, who included an explicit “right to know” as part of the Constitution’s bill of rights, that scrutiny has been aided by Montana’s permissive public records laws, which grant interested members of the public a broad legal right to access the workings of their government.

The Gianforte administration has, however, at times pushed back against efforts by the public to exercise that right to know to pry loose potentially politically sensitive information from his office, driving critics to resort to litigation.

In two lawsuits, one brought by an environment and public lands activist and the other brought by the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Gianforte administration has argued the governor’s “deliberative process” should be exempt from the state’s open records law.

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