Running from sunlight
My good friends at the Sunlight Foundation have made excellent use of a famous quote by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
But many a modern lawmaker seems to abhor that prescription. At the Center for Public Integrity, we've been busy tracking legislative action in the wake of our massive State Integrity Investigation—a data-driven corruption risk index for all 50 states. The good news is that so far at least six states have either enacted or introduced improved accountability measures.
But many other states have not. One of the 330 measures we looked at is an analysis of public records policies. We found that in state after state, the open records laws are riddled with exemptions and loopholes that impede the public's right to know, rather than improve upon it. What are lawmakers hiding?
Such obfuscations only limit the public's ability to know what's going on—and who is quietly benefitting. Brandeis was right; more sunlight, please.
Until next week,
Walker wins with 7:1 money advantage
With a 7-to-one fundraising advantage of and record turnout, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week defeated a union-led recall challenge by Democrat Tom Barrett. The election was the most expensive in Wisconsin history. More than $63.5 million was spent by candidates and independent groups, the overwhelming majority underwritten by out-of-state sources. The record spending total was made possible thanks to the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision—which had the effect of invalidating Wisconsin's century-old ban on independent expenditures by corporations and unions—and a state law that allows unlimited contributions to the incumbent in recall elections. The amount spent since November 2011 trounces the state's previous record of $37.4 million, set during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
Democratic groups spend $1 million to beat back independent
Groups hoping to help Democrats pick up a California House seat in November have spent more than $1 million aimed at boosting their favorite candidate, Julia Brownley, and knocking off independent challenger Linda Parks (above).
OSHA rules on workplace toxics stalled
Thousands of American workers suffer from chronic lung diseases contracted from toxic dust inhaled on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is doing precious little to protect them.
Navigating exemptions to state public records laws
Last month, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a law creating the Iowa Public Information Board to enforce new open records laws. Tacked on to the bill is an amendment that exempts "tentative, preliminary, draft, speculative, or research material" from the provision. So much for full transparency.