Texas Reverses Course on Government Transparency

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Yesterday, the Office of Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an order that defends secrecy at the expense of open government – reversing the position his office took in multiple prior opinions over the last six years.  In so doing, the Attorney General's office ruled in favor of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, finding that they do not have to disclose information about the pharmacy or pharmacist supplying the lethal injection drugs used in executions.

There are serious questions about what led to Attorney General Abbott's reversal of his previous position, especially in light of the $350,000 in donations he recently received from a specialty compounding pharmacy.

More below the jump.For many years, the AG has been a proponent of open government and transparency. He has also previously explicitly rejected the TDCJ's requests for secrecy where lethal injection is concerned (see pp 6-7 here). In addition, AG Abbott has made many statements supporting transparency in government (see pp. 1-2 here).  

The basis for AG Abbott's ruling protecting TDCJ from disclosing the source of the drugs is an affidavit from the Director of sister state agency Texas DPS, which recounts purported threats that the AG credited to find a “threat of harm” to the pharmacies and / or pharmacists.  However, the rationale that secrecy surrounding lethal injection is needed in order to protect compounding pharmacies has been widely debunked, including in an April 2014 Associated Press feature entitled, “Scant Evidence of Threats to Execution Drugmakers”.

In addition, included in yesterday's ruling is a finding that TDCJ may keep secret their “DEA Registration”–a form that is required to purchase the lethal injection drugs. The DEA registration TDCJ has used to date lists them as the “Huntsville Unit Hospital” – a hospital that no longer exists.  That false information has provided TDCJ with a medical persona that has been used previously to mislead pharmacies about the reason for the purchase of lethal drugs.

The watchdog group Texans For Public Justice revealed in a recent report that AG Abbott recently received a total of $350,000 from Ritchie Ray, owner of Richie's Specialty Pharmacy.


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