The Democratic National Committee formally has asked the Pentagon for reams of correspondence between military agencies and nine potential Republican presidential candidates, a clear indication that Democrats are building opposition-research files on specific 2012 contenders even before the midterm elections.
An internal Army e-mail obtained by ABC News indicates that the DNC has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for “any and all records of communication” between Army departments and agencies and each of the nine Republicans — all of whom are widely mentioned as possible challengers to President Obama.
The agencies are asked to respond to the request by this Friday, just four days before Election Day.
The nine Republicans that Democrats are seeking information on are former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska; former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.; Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss.; Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn.; former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Gov. Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.; Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La.
Such requests are typical in the world of opposition research, which involves casting a broad net for publicly available material that may at some point prove embarrassing or incriminating to political candidates.
The request isn’t for details of military service or lack thereof, but appears to be designed to find information on letters and memos sent to and from the potential candidates in official positions they’ve held.
DNC officials declined to comment, but did not dispute that the information has been requested. An Army spokesman confirmed that the DNC’s formal request for information has been received.
“We did receive a FOIA request, and now we are responding to that FOIA request,” said the spokesman, Col. Tom Collins.
The DNC’s request is intriguing for its timing as well as for the singling out of nine particular Republicans who are expected to vie for the GOP presidential nomination.
In addition, the FOIA request provides a window into how deeply into potential candidates’ pasts opposition researchers are looking, even at this early stage.
The request for information on Gingrich stretches back to 1979, when he was a freshman member of the House. The DNC is asking for information related to Palin’s service on the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council in the early 1990s, while the Pawlenty request includes his service on the Planning Commission in Eagan, Minn., in 1988 and 1989.
The requests for Daniels and Thune specifically reference their time as staff members for U.S. senators. Democrats are trying to learn more about Jindal’s career going back to 1996, when he was secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the memo, the DNC’s request asks for “Any and all records of communication (including but not limited to letters, written requests, reports, telephone records, electronic communication, complaints, investigations, violation and memos) between your department (and all divisions and agencies under your jurisdiction).”
The DNC also asks for copies of other Freedom of Information requests that mention the nine individuals that Democrats want information on.