Editorial – Lawmakers can’t justify self-serving secrecy

September 14, 2017 9:18 AM

 

It shouldn’t be necessary, but 10 news organizations, including The Spokesman-Review, are suing the Washington Legislature because it won’t release information that other politicians must divulge.

Under an effort spearheaded by the Associated Press earlier this year, news outlets requested copies of all 147 lawmakers’ calendars documenting their official schedules and work-related text messages.

The Legislature’s attorneys responded by saying that material didn’t qualify as “public records” under a change quietly pushed through during the 1995 legislative session. If nothing else, this stubborn stand on their claimed exemption demonstrates one thing: Legislature leaders clearly do not embrace the spirit of the voter-approved Public Disclosure Act.

That law, adopted overwhelmingly in 1972 states, in part, “full access to information concerning the conduct of government on every level must be assured as a fundamental and necessary precondition to the sound governance of a free society.”

If lawmakers agreed with that, they would release the material requested. Some lawmakers have, showing they do believe in the “transparency” mantra they all seemingly utter when they run for office. But they are the exception. The rest cling to the exemption, which will be the focus of the lawsuit. Read more