Politics

Oversight Democrats Want Probe Into Postal Service’s Release of Candidate’s Records

Ryan-aligned super PAC received highly sensitive information on Virginia congressional hopeful

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., above, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., want the acting U.S. Postal Service inspector general to investigate the improper release of information on a Democratic congressional candidate in Virginia. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top Democrats on the House Oversight Committee want the U.S. Postal Service to investigate how a Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC obtained a Virginia Democratic congressional candidate’s unredacted federal security clearance application.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is closely affiliated with House GOP leadership and Speaker Paul D. Ryan, and America Rising, a conservative opposition research group, have said the copy of the form was obtained through a standard Freedom of Information Act request to the National Personnel Records Center, which then kicked it over to the USPS to process and respond.

Roll Call has reviewed and verified the documents related to America Rising’s FOIA request initially filed on July 9 and the shipment of the materials from the USPS human resources department on July 30. America Rising then turned those documents over to CLF.

Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, the respective ranking member and vice ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to USPS acting inspector general Tammy Whitcomb asking her to open an investigation into the service’s handling of the FOIA request.

The candidate whose information was released, Abigail Spanberger, who is running against GOP Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s hotly contested 7th District, has indicated she believes CLF and America Rising obtained the form through illegal channels.

“I am not aware of any legal way that CLF could have this document,” Spanberger, a former CIA officer and U.S. Postal Inspection Service officer, wrote in a cease-and-desist letter to CLF for circulating the form to at least one reporter at The Associated Press.

David Partenheimer, a public relations manager for the Postal Service, said that it was “looking into this matter.”

The form in question is an SF-86 that Spanberger filed as part of her application for a security clearance when she was applying to work for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in the mid-2000s.

SF-86s contain highly sensitive personal information — such as family and medical history and the applicant’s social security number — and are supposed to be tightly locked away under protection of the 1974 Privacy Act.

“The release of Ms. Spanberger’s unredacted SF-86 to any individual or entity without her permission in violation of the law would call into question the Postal Service’s processes for responding to FOIA requests,” Cummings and Connolly wrote in their letter.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Spanberger’s race against Brat Tilts Republican.

Brat, a member of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus, won re-election 2016 with 58 percent of the vote. But President Donald Trump carried the seat by just 7 points, a margin several Democratic House candidates have erased in special elections since Trump took office.

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