Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Open Government's a Must

Earlier today we found out that Mayor Munson’s fund-raising scandal maybe wasn’t that big of a deal after all. Sure, he (along with his crack bookkeeper who was conveniently out of town when the scandal broke) probably didn’t completely follow the rules regarding his infamous Minerva’s party that occurred after his election. There are also probably some additional questions and/or investigations that need to happen in the aftermath. For example, did the recipients of the twenty-three grand report this money as income? If these people were members of his staff, did Munson’s campaign pay the payroll taxes? Since the funds didn’t appear on either of Munson’s campaign reports there is that possibility that others could have some future legal problems. Overall, though, it’s not quite the final nail in Munson’s coffin that most of us predicted last week.
Yet Munson could have made this whole saga disappear in no time. By playing stupid (which he is a natural at) the story just got bigger and bigger each day. Instead, this guy who on his first day of office made such a big deal of always having his door open was suddenly not available to the media until KELO’s Don Jorgensen cornered him outside City Hall.
This sort of secrecy has permeated all levels of government, from Cheney and his meetings with oil execs to Bill Frist’s stock scandals to John Thune’s sweetheart deal with his former employers in the DM&E. (I realize that I’ve mentioned nothing but Republicans in that sentence, but this is not a partisan issue. Democrats currently have few problems such as this simply because they’re not in power these days.)
Even our Governor has a few secrets. Sure, Mike Rounds probably has no obligation to release the names of those that went hunting with him last fall, or those that contributed money to the Governor’s Fund that helps him fly to his kid’s football games. I’m not accusing him of any wrongdoing; everything is probably legally fine.
Morally, however, I think he and every politician from both sides of the fence has an obligation to provide us with as much information as possible. They are working for us, after all, and in my eyes I’m probably quicker to judge a person if I feel they’re holding out on me. Keeping secrets does nothing but make me wonder if there’s some lobbyists or corporate flack buying influence from representatives of the city, county, state, or country. Laws or contracts should not be given to those that provide the most perks.
What’s most bothersome about any or all of these controversies are the partisan games by both parties. So many people are nothing but sheep to their political party. The most evil politicians can lie, cheat, murder, or any other crime and still will be considered as a saint by those that claim a membership in that particular side of the fence. Conversely, jaywalking is a hanging crime for those on the other side of the street. C’mon, people. You need to have expectations of your representatives. You need to chastise them when they make mistakes. Some times you may even have to kick them to the curb and find somebody better suited for the job. It’s not always about playing power games; sometimes you must do what’s best for the big picture.

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