Todd Rokita sure is a piece of work.
Indiana’s attorney general has, shall we say, an expansive notion of just how much privacy he is entitled to as a public servant.
But plain, ordinary citizens of the state of Indiana?
Not so much.
As he transitioned into the state’s top law-enforcement job, Rokita explored the possibility of holding onto a lucrative private-sector gig with Apex Benefits. In effect, he wanted to see if he could turn serving as attorney general into a side hustle.
Rokita asked the inspector general for an opinion. The inspector general provided one.
Through a staffer, Rokita said the report completely vindicated him, but he quit the Apex job anyway.
An Indiana citizen, Barbara Tully, asked to see the inspector general’s opinion. Rokita refused to provide it, citing privacy concerns.
A Marion County judge said Rokita had to make the opinion public but allowed that the attorney general could redact as much of it as he wished.
Rokita didn’t like that. He thought that even issuing a report he could edit himself constituted an unacceptable violation of his privacy.
So, he hired a heavyweight conservative lawyer, James Bopp — the guy who argued the Citizens United case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which turned American politics into a dark-money cesspool — to help him fight.
Because even an attorney general has a right to keep private just how much work he’s willing to do for the people who elected him.
But hiring expensive legal counsel to protect his privacy isn’t enough for Rokita.
The Indianapolis Star reports that Rokita requires all employees in the attorney general’s office to sign non-disclosure agreements. The agreements cover both Rokita’s private life and his public performance as an elected official.
Those employees can find themselves having to cough up $25,000 if they violate the agreement.
And the person who gets to determine if an employee has broken the NDA?
Why, Rokita himself, of course.
Allowing the prosecutor to serve as both judge and jury would tend to simplify the process, wouldn’t it?
The Star checked. The attorneys general in other states don’t require such agreements for their employees.
But then, they aren’t Todd Rokita.
They don’t have the Indiana attorney general’s finely attuned, highly developed regard for a person’s privacy rights.
Well, at least for Todd Rokita’s privacy, anyway.
But he doesn’t worry that much about anyone else’s privacy.
That’s why he now seeks to have the U.S. Office of Health and Human Services abort a proposed rule change.
HHS plans to bar governments in states where abortion is illegal from getting the medical records of women who travel to states where it is legal so they legally can end unwanted or even health-endangering pregnancies.
The HHS rule change is designed to do two things.
The first is to make sure that the privacy of women and families at one of the most vulnerable and difficult moments in their lives is protected.
The second is to try to prevent ambitious and zealous prosecutors and attorneys general unencumbered by senses of decency or restraint from shattering innocent people’s lives just because they can.
No wonder Rokita doesn’t like this proposed new rule.
This is, after all, the guy who has persecuted Dr. Caitlin Bernard for revealing supposedly private information about a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim for whom the doctor performed an abortion. Bernard told a reporter the rape victim’s age and the state — a big one — where the little girl lived, but that was it. The New England Journal of Medicine often reports much more.
Rokita himself revealed that much and more when he rushed to appear on Fox News to denounce Bernard when the story was little more than a rumor.
But that was different, you see.
Todd Rokita saw a chance to score political gains in his endless quest to achieve whatever higher office might be open. He wasn’t going to pass up a chance to appear on the biggest stage rightwing circles provide.
Even if he had to crucify a female doctor and throw women’s privacy rights on a bonfire to do it.
Because doctors and women are just … people.
People and their rights to privacy deserve scant regard.
But Todd Rokita?
Well, he’s something else entirely.
A real piece of work.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, where this commentary originally appeared. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the views of Franklin College. Send comments to [email protected].