Monday, December 18, 2006

Doyle aide denies public access

The state Department of Administration's chief legal counsel has a really scary interpretation of the Open Records Law, one that reminds me a lot of the Bush Administration's interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act: it should not stop one from keeping public records away from the public.

Remember Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, and how he wouldn't let anyone even know who was on it? DOA Chief Legal Counsel John Rothschild has a similar view of open government -- he thinks it should be closed. He has decreed that any budget document prepared by DOA or the governor's staff need not be released to the public. His loopy reasoning? Making the records public may “jeopardize the candor and complete evaluation of the state’s finances in the preparation of the budget for the governor.”

I guess that we, the people that actually pay the bills, aren't entitled to that kind of candor. Doesn't that just make you wonder what they aren't telling us?

There absolutely is a need for confidentiality in certain aspects of budget preparation, but this isn't one of them. Rothschild's sweeping denial was in response to a request for records related to the Department of Transportation's delay in submitting its 2007-09 budget request. The event is over, and does not bear on Gov. Doyle's ongoing budget preparations. There is simply no reason to deny release of all those records.

This is a dangerous precedent, one that drips with arrogance and disdain for the public's right to know.

Jim Doyle is just starting his second term. We will have to see if Rothschild's high-handedness is an aberration or whether part of Doyle's legacy will be the imperial governorship.

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