George Stanley, the editor of the Milwaukee newspaper, has penned an editorial urging the public to lobby our legislature to ensure open government. He begins:
Folks, if we want open, honest government in Wisconsin, we’ll have to earn it. We can’t take it for granted or leave the job to others, not with the relentless efforts in Madison to reduce access to information about what our elected representatives are up to.
Only one approach to date has deterred the overseers of our state from hiding evidence of how they curry favor and then dole out taxpayer dollars, advantageous legislation and public resources in return. That instrument is the most basic act of democracy: Thousands of voters taking time to tell them to stop.
I agree with Stanley’s overall message. Open government is vitally important and we must continually push back on our politicians’ efforts to hide their activities from public scrutiny. But it is difficult for me to take George Stanley seriously on this issue. His editorial page has been a passionate advocate for the John Doe laws, which are designed to keep investigations secret so that the public doesn’t know what prosecutors are doing. The John Doe process allows a prosecutor to investigate people and turn their lives upside down while forcing them to remain silent about the entire ordeal under penalty of imprisonment. It is difficult to think of a more aggressive use of the coercive force of government, but Stanley thinks it’s okey-dokey for it to be completely hidden from the public.
So yeah… George… I agree with you, but you are hardly the best standard-bearer for this cause.