One of the more amusing things revealed last week when Arizona’s secretary of state came out as birther curious was that Hawaii officials just simply don’t believe he’s qualified to investigate Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
Sure, Ken Bennett says he’s the man in charge of deciding whether President Obama is eligible to be on Arizona’s ballot in November, but the response from people in Hawaii’s government has been: Prove it. In essence, they’re giving Bennett a taste of his own medicine, making him jump through a series of hoops to prove he has the legal authority to investigate the matter, much the same way the birthers have made Hawaii prove time and time again that the president is indeed a natural born citizen of the United States.
On Monday, TPM filed a public records request for the correspondence between the Hawaii government and the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. The results show Bennett and his staff grew ever more impatient with the slow pace of Hawaii’s response before the secretary finally took to a local conservative radio talk show on Thursday to voice his concerns.
“Hello Jill. I just left you a brief voice mail message,” Arizona Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake wrote in an email to a Hawaii attorney on May 1. “I am wondering whether you can give me a ballpark timeframe on our request. 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!”
Deputy Attorney General Jill Nagamine’s response? “We need more information to substantiate that you are eligible to receive verification.”
In an interview with the Associated Press late Friday, a spokesman for the Hawaii attorney general said Bennett still has yet to show that he legitimately needs a verification of Hawaii’s birth certificate despite numerous emails back and forth.
Hawaii officials have plenty of reasons to push back. Birtherism is a conspiracy theory fueled by a fringe group of writers and activists unwilling to believe Obama is a natural born citizen and therefore eligible for the presidency no matter how much evidence they get.
The effect is that Hawaii has been overloaded for years with requests for verification of the president’s birth certificate, getting as many as 50 new requests a month. Hawaii officials have passed laws and filed sworn affidavits to deal with the matter. The White House has even gone as far as to release a copy of the president’s long-form birth certificate to the public. Yet requests like Bennett’s still keep coming.
In the interview with the conservative radio host last week in Phoenix, Bennett described himself as “not a birther.” He said he believed the president was born in Hawaii, but he qualified it by adding “or at least I hope he was.” His investigation, he said, wasn’t driven by his personal belief. It began after a flood of emails into his office from birthers in Arizona, asking him to look into the president’s eligibility.
But during the interview, Bennett, a Republican and Mitt Romney’s Arizona co-chair, also said that if he doesn’t get a satisfactory answer from Hawaii, it’s “possible” he’ll keep the president off the ballot in November.
Here now is the correspondence chain, starting with an email from Nagamine, the Hawaii deputy attorney general, which apparently followed a phone conversation between her and Bennett. The secretary’s first written request comes after that. Also included at the end are two emails Bennett sent to birthers who had been heckling him about the fact that Obama was still on track to be on Arizona’s ballot. TPM has edited out things like home addresses, email addresses and phone numbers.
From: Jill T. Nagamine
Sent: Saturday, March 17, 2012 8:15 PM
To: Bennett, Ken
Subject: Link to Hawaii laws and the Department of Health webpage
So sorry I’ve taken so long to get back to you. I may take a few more days to get your final response about what we can verify and how we will do so. I have been tied up with some legislative deadlines that take precedence. To start with, here are the links that I mentioned to you.
The first link is to the Department of Health’s website that was created in response to the high volume of inquiries about the President’s birth certificate. It includes the press releases issued by the former Republican-appointed Director of Health.
The second is to section 338-18, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which governs the confidentiality of vital records. Let me direct you to paragraph (g) which relates to verification of records.
Another link is to section 338-14.3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which pertains to verification.
The last link is to all of chapter 338, Hawaii Revised Statutes, Hawaii’s vital statistics law.
Jill T. Nagamine
Deputy Attorney General
State of Hawaii
March 30, 2012
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com