New America Foundation fellow and former LA Times reporter Joe Mathews documented his approval process in a blog post last week. The others who requested and received approval are Peter Scheer, of the California First Amendment Coalition, and a student at the University of Southern California, where the records are housed.
The records are available to the public only with Brown's written permission, although Dace Taube, a USC librarian overseeing the collection said that to her knowledge, "He's never turned anyone down."
There was some confusion over the records last week, with some journalists and campaign workers buzzing that Brown may have opened them to the general public – something First Amendment advocates have been leaning on him to do. But the rumors turned out to be unfounded, as both Taube and the Brown campaign said the former governor had only granted approval to the three people who had asked for it.
Since it became clear last year that he would enter the gubernatorial race, Brown has faced pressure to grant unfettered access to the records, which otherwise would not have been released until either his death or the year 2033 – 50 years after his last term ended. When he was in office, Brown signed the law that first entitled the public to scrutinize governors' papers, although when and how the records would be released was disputed for more than a decade after. Mathews described it this way last November in the LA Times:
"There's a certain irony here. Brown was the California governor who, in 1975, finally signed a law that made gubernatorial papers public records. But after he left office, he fought an extended legal battle with March Fong Eu, the then-secretary of state, over exactly what "public" meant.
Eventually a 1988 law forced California governors from thence forward to turn their records over to the state archives but allowed them to maintain Brown's access rules."The records appear to document everything from day-to-day deliberations inside the Brown administration to letters from adoring admirers. Republican opposition researchers have been anxious to dig through the documents, which provide a rare – though dated – look into the governing style of a candidate seeking his third term as California's governor.