The Case of the Unredacted Spanberger File

Virginia’s 7th Congressional District race between Rep. Dave Brat (R) and Abigail Spanberger (D) has offered up a classic example of how a blunder can change the narrative of a close race. The Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund was caught shopping Spanberger’s unredacted government background files (officially known as an SF-86) to the press.

Such information isn’t supposed to be in anyone’s hands outside of government, and, even then, on very limited grounds. This sent the Spanberger team into overdrive.

On a press call Wednesday afternoon, former CIA officer and Obama special assistant Ned Price said he was “absolutely floored” to learn unredacted copies of Spanberger’s files had been released via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Office of Personnel Management states some information from the SF-86 may be released to “the news media or the general public,” but such disclosures are limited to “factual information the disclosure of which would be in the public interest and which would not constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

In other words, the CLF and America Rising, which filed the FOIA request, could have received some of the information it got from the Postal Service, where Spanberger was an inspector. But not the entire file, which includes Social Security information, medical and criminal histories, past employment information and much, much more.

Spanberger’s campaign wants the CLF to destroy any copies of the SF-86 form in its possession and is considering “all legal remedies” if the group does not comply.

On the press call, Price said the episode smacked of “political vengeance” and “retribution” from the Trump administration and called on Congress to investigate.

That may be a very big leap, considering the White House has shown little to no interest in the 7th District race.

Price admitted the release could have been a “clerical error,” though he added that was “difficult to believe.”

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