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Watchdog SUES DOT for refusing to hand over records on whether public resources for Mayor Pete doc

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Ethics watchdog SUES the Department of Transportation for refusing to hand over documents on whether taxpayer funds were used to fund Pete Buttigieg’s documentary Mayor Pete

  •  The watchdog questioned whether DOT officials t ‘improperly used official time and resources to facilitate or promote the film highlighting the Secretary’
  • The group filed a FOIA request on Dec. 8 requesting all records since President Biden’s Inauguration relating to the ‘Mayor Pete’ movie
  • PPT, the watchdog group, said that DOT had told the group in early February that it could have records regarding the film to them by the end of the month
  • ‘Despite their earlier pronouncements, DOT seems to want to avoid the transparency that might expose any ethical missteps,’ the watchdog said

The Mayor Pete documentary was released on Amazon Prime on Nov. 12

The Mayor Pete documentary was released on Amazon Prime on Nov. 12 

Ethics watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation (DOT) for refusing to respond to their request for documents related to whether taxpayer money was used to produce ‘Mayor Pete,’ a documentary profiling the DOT secretary currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

The watchdog claimed that the release of the documentary during Buttigieg’s time at the helm of DOT rose questions about whether any officials in the department  ‘improperly used official time and resources to facilitate or promote the film highlighting the Secretary.’

The group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Dec. 8 requesting all records since President Biden’s Inauguration relating to the ‘Mayor Pete’ movie. 

PPT said that DOT had told the group in early February that it could have records regarding the film to them by the end of the month. But as of Thursday, still no records had been received. 

‘Despite their earlier pronouncements, DOT seems to want to avoid the transparency that might expose any ethical missteps. The public can draw their own conclusions from that…’ PPT said in a statement. 

The Department of Transportation could not be reached for comment on the documents.  

Just last month the Department of Justice put out a memorandum directing federal agencies how to handle FOIA requests, underscoring that ‘Transparency in government operations is a priority of this Administration.’

Watchdog Protecting the Public's Trust claimed that the release of the documentary during Pete Buttigieg's time at the helm of DOT rose questions about whether any officials in the department'improperly used official time and resources'

Watchdog Protecting the Public’s Trust claimed that the release of the documentary during Pete Buttigieg’s time at the helm of DOT rose questions about whether any officials in the department ‘improperly used official time and resources’

The group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Dec. 8 requesting all records since President Biden's Inauguration relating to the'Mayor Pete' movie

The group filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Dec. 8 requesting all records since President Biden’s Inauguration relating to the ‘Mayor Pete’ movie

The'Mayor Pete' documentary first began production on the campaign trail in 2019, and was only originally going to be released if Buttigieg's race went well

The ‘Mayor Pete’ documentary first began production on the campaign trail in 2019, and was only originally going to be released if Buttigieg’s race went well

The memo told federal agencies they may only withhold records requested under FOIA if an agency ‘foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the nine exemptions that FOIA enumerates’ or if disclosure is prohibited by law. 

The memo said that when there was a case of doubt on whether information could be revealed, ‘openness should prevail.’ 

‘This episode represents yet another case in which agencies have failed to exemplify the administration’s stated commitments to ethics and transparency,’ PPT said. 

The ‘Mayor Pete’ documentary first began production on the campaign trail in 2019, and was only originally going to be released if Buttigieg’s race went well. The film, an Amazon original, was released on Prime on Nov. 12, 2021. 

The documentary chronicles Buttigieg’s shot at becoming the first gay president, beginning one year before the peak of his campaign, the Iowa caucuses, which he won. It does not include any footage from his time after he took office in DOT.  

The goal of the film was to peel back the layers of the perfectly polished young mayor of South Bend. 

A graduate of both Harvard and Oxford and a veteran of the Navy Reserves, Buttigieg’s pedigree and poise led some to question whether he’d been born looking to seek the presidency. And though pundits often remarked that he came across as incredibly intelligent in debates, they said it sometimes seemed a little bit too well rehearsed. Filmmaker Jesse Moss decided on the idea to make a documentary to get behind the facade of the South Bend mayor after watching him in the first Democratic debate. 

Buttigieg chats with President Biden in the'Mayor Pete' documentary

Buttigieg chats with President Biden in the ‘Mayor Pete’ documentary 

Buttigieg's husband Chasten, right, offered criticism in the film:'He did everything to climb every ladder without being his authentic self'

Buttigieg’s husband Chasten, right, offered criticism in the film: ‘He did everything to climb every ladder without being his authentic self’

But some remarked that Buttigieg did not open up during the documentary in the way the filmmaker had intended. Moss told Politico Buttigieg would often slip into campaign mode during interviews. 

Even Buttigieg’s husband Chasten offered the criticism: ‘He did everything to climb every ladder without being his authentic self.’ 

‘My way of coming at the world, the stronger the emotion is, the more private it is,’ Buttigieg explained at one point. ‘And it is a strange thing, because politics is an emotional pursuit, of course.’

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