It’s baaaack.

The so-called “birther” movement did not die off completely when President Barack Obama placed his “long-form” birth certificate on the White House website in April 2011.

That action, you may recall, came after gazillionaire Donald Trump (who was flirting with a GOP presidential run) raised the issue.

Since then, birther conspiracists (mostly) dropped off the news media radar, as most remaining doubters appeared to finally accept that Obama was born at Kapiolani hospital and not in Kenya.

Until now.

Last week, the Arizona Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, announced that he had spent the past two months asking Hawaii for “verification” of Obama’s birth records.

If Bennett doesn’t get his “verification,” Obama may be left off the November ballot in Arizona, which has 11 electoral votes and could make a difference in a close election á la Bush v. Gore.

Civil Beat checked and Bennett has not asked Michigan, where GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney was born, for similar verification.

Bennett, a Republican and Romney’s campaign co-chair in Arizona, says when it comes to Obama he is only doing his job.

“I believe the president was born in Hawaii,” he explained Friday, according to multiple news reports. “I am not a birther. … We’re merely asking them to officially confirm they have the president’s birth certificate in their possession and are awaiting their response.”

Why all the new fuss over Obama’s birth?

As The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, the Arizona birther business has a lot to do with politics in that state. Bennett is weighing a run for governor, and Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, is the target of a federal investigation into civil-rights abuse. It was Arpaio who recently launched a special investigation into the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.

For Hawaii, it has thrust this state back into the headlines.

Joshua Wisch, special assistant Attorney General David Louie, has explained that the Hawaii Department of Health had granted Obama’s request for a certified copy of his long-form birth certificate, that health directors under Republican and Democrat governors have confirmed its authenticity and that the birth certificate remains on the state DOH website for all to see.

Before the state will send him a certified copy, Wisch said Bennett needs to provide legal authority showing that his office is “a governmental agency or organization who for a legitimate government purpose maintains and needs to update official lists of persons in the ordinary course of the agency’s or organization’s activities.”  

The quoted section is from Hawaii Revised Statute 338-18(g)(2), which concerns disclosure of records.

Asked what he meant by “legal authority,” Wisch said it could come in “very different forms,” such as Arizona statute.

TPM Muckraker obtained copies of emails between Bennett’s office and Hawaii Deputy Attorney General Jill Nagamine.

Nagamine had this to say to Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake, according to the email:

As the Secretary and I initially discussed, it appears that you might be eligible for verification of the record based on subparagraph (2), but we need to see what your authority is “to update official lists of persons in the ordinary course of your activities.” Will you send me a copy of your law that allows this, and will you send me information that shows:

(1) What list are you updating?
(2) Is it your normal procedure to update all entries on your list by requiring birth data verification?
(3) Are you requiring birth data verification of all entries on your list, rather than just targeting one name on your list? (please provide evidence that you are doing so)

Once Bennett provides that information, said Wisch, he will be provided the “verification in lieu of a certified copy” — language that falls under under HRS 338-14.3 — but only after the “legal authority” info has been analyzed and accepted by Hawaii.

Wisch said that, as of Monday afternoon, there was nothing to new to announce on the Hawaii-Arizona showdown but that new developments could emerge Tuesday.

An inquiry Monday from Civil Beat to Bennett’s director of communications, Matthew Roberts, was not immediately returned. Reached by phone, an assistant asked us to send our inquiry via email because Roberts had been “innundated with media requests, as you can imagine.”

The Arizona Secretary of State’s official website, meanwhile, has this statement from Bennett:

First, I have been on the record since 2009 that I believe the President was born in Hawaii. I am not a “birther”. At the request of a constituent, I asked the state of Hawaii for a for a verification in lieu of certified copy. We’re merely asking them to officially confirm they have the President’s birth certificate in their possession and are awaiting their response.

On Monday morning, two men self-identified as being from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix went to the DOH office requesting a verification Obama’s birth certificate, according to DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

She said DOH explained to the two men the state’s law on official verification — the matter that is pending before the AG’s office.

Going Viral

Arizona’s birth certificate request is all over the Internet, of course.

It includes postings from a lot of birther conspirators as well as those who believe the whole thing is ridiculous.

Examples of each:

Ozark Tea Party, Arkansas: EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD CONTACT THEIR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND DEMAND a complete investigation, immediately. If there isn’t anyone out there that has the backbone to make this happen, then at least support Arizona and Sheriff Arpaio!

Wonkette.com blogger Jim Newell: This story will approach optimal comedy volume if it lasts through the summer and into the fall — cross your fingers for court action! — and this Bennett dupe begins to sweat more and more each day about this extremely voluntary quest he’s embarked on. He could win Idiot of the Year, even, if this becomes a major national story a couple of months before a presidential election.

TPM Muckraker, meantime, has published the trail of emails between Secretary Bennett and Hawaii officials, which were obtained through a public-records request:

Excerpt:

“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.”

No Questions About Romney

Arizona’s request does not appear to fall — yet — under the category of “vexatious requester,” a Hawaii law enacted in 2010. It allows government agencies such as the DOH to refuse disclosure of government records “in response to duplicate requests from a single requestor.”

The DOH pushed for the law because, as it testified in March 2010, it had received over 50 email inquires per month on Obama’s birth certificate, overwhelming DOH staff.

The law sunsets July 1, 2014.

So is Arizona also seeking the birth certificate of Mitt Romney — the presumptive Republican candidate for president — who was reportedly born in Detroit on March 12, 1947?

Civil Beat did not hear back from Bennett’s office on that question.

We did check with the State of Michigan Vital Records Office, however.

After getting a few laughs from office personnel — “Glad to see someone challenge that,” said one employee — we reached Angela Minicuci, who handles public information.

“I checked, and I don’t believe we have that request in from Arizona,” she said.

Follow Civil Beat on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up for Civil Beat’s free daily newsletter.

About the Author

Comments