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Sunshine Week on the campaign trail

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by EStreetJoe, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    Figured since this is about the campaign it belongs here instead of under journalism topics. Interesting how much the candidates are hiding...


    Newspaper Beats by Mark Fitzgerald

    Finally, A Campaign Debate Over Openness
    Just in time for Sunshine Week, Hillary reveals her
    open government positions -- and Obama starts an overdue coming-clean

    By Mark Fitzgerald

    CHICAGO (March 17, 2008) -- Presidential candidates receive surveys
    from every special interest from PETA to Planned Parenthood, but the
    one they apparently find easiest to disregard comes from Sunshine
    Week, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) initiative on
    open government.

    Sunshine Week began Sunday, and until the day before, it had not
    received a response to the survey it first mailed out to the 16 major-
    party candidates in October 2007 -- and re-sent after the Super
    Tuesday primaries -- from the three remaining in the race, Democrats
    Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican John McCain.

    Clinton squeaked under the Sunshine Week wire with a survey that
    repeatedly wags its finger at the "excessive secrecy" of the Bush
    administration -- and ignores her own transparency-challenged record.

    Obama at long last used the lull between primaries late last week to
    finally address an issue he has preferred to keep in the shadows for
    the past year -- the full extent of his political and financial
    relationship with Illinois power broker Tony Rezko, who is now on
    trial in Chicago on federal corruption charges.

    He has yet to respond to the Sunshine Week survey, but, as the
    indefatigable Chicago Sun-Times political columnist Lynn Sweet -- who
    deserves much of the credit for pressuring Obama to come clean --
    reports, he now believes he's positioned to make a campaign issue of

    The Obama campaign thinks it can use the transparency issue to blunt
    Clinton's oft-repeated claim that she is "fully vetted," unlike,
    presumably, the junior senator from Illinois.

    "Sen. Clinton and her campaign say she is fully vetted, but the truth
    is that she is a veteran of non-disclosure," Obama's chief strategist
    David Axelrod told the Sun-Times' Sweet. His spokesman said Clinton
    should release her tax returns, and the list of donors to her
    husband's presidential library in Little Rock.

    In response, Clinton's campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson told the
    paper that the Obama team is "running a campaign that is designed to
    tear down Sen. Clinton's character using Republican talking points,"
    and that they should knock off the "personal attack."

    It's about time we're hearing about issues that go far more to the
    heart of what kind of president they might be than what Obama's pastor
    says in Sunday sermons or whether Clinton really is as Irish as she
    says on St. Patrick's Day.

    Both Democratic candidates have spotty records on the subject, with
    Obama having trouble finding or releasing many of the documents from
    his Illinois state Senate days.

    And Hillary Clinton, well, where do you start? It's instructive to
    recall that an E&P editorial in the early days of the Bush
    administration accused Dick Cheney of "operating his energy task force
    right out of the Hillary Clinton playbook: All sessions are off the
    record and no documents are shared within the group, lest they be
    leaked." A subhead said the Bush White House was showing "a
    Clintonesque weakness for secrecy."

    The ludicrously excessive secrecy of Bush, Cheney & Co., of course,
    make Clinton's ill-starred health-care "task force" of 500 look like
    the good ole' days. It's clear now this White House never needed
    lessons in secrecy from anyone.

    These days, Hillary is talking the talk on open government. Her
    Sunshine Week questionnaire promises support for a federal shield law;
    an attorney general who will roll back John Ashcroft's infamous and
    still-standing order for bureaucrats to favor non-disclosure over
    disclosure in freedom of information requests; and an end to the
    excessive classification of government documents.

    "To me, openness and accountability are not platitudes -- they are
    essential elements of our democracy," she wrote in the survey.

    Still, her records as First Lady are still sitting unseen and
    gathering dust in the Clinton library, safe from prying eyes thanks to
    the 2001 executive order by Bush giving family members control of
    their administration's records. She's said she's asked for the process
    to be speeded up.

    And she's in no hurry to release her income tax return, promising it
    by the due date of April 15, a week before the Pennsylvania primary.
    As for the Clinton library donors, well, the library and foundation
    will be required to "prospectively disclose" those names and amounts
    "when I am president."

    On the Republican side, McCain apparently thinks the American people
    has no particular need to know his views on government secrecy and

    McCain refuses to release his income tax returns. Sunshine Week
    research reports that he supports continuing to classify certain
    records from the Vietnam War, 33 years after the fall of Saigon. On
    the other hand, he has spoken in favor of a federal reporter's shield
    act, and the campaign law he pushed, however else it restricts free
    speech in the view of many, does require far more transparency and
    public access to information than was the case in the past.

    The federal Freedom of Information Act and the equivalent state laws
    on access to documents and meetings are consistently popular with the
    voters. In a Sunshine Week poll released Sunday, nearly 90% of
    respondents said they think it's important for candidates to say where
    they stand on open government issues.

    It's past time for the remaining presidential candidates to do just
    that -- and start challenging each other on the critical issues of
    transparency and access the way they challenge each other on
    experience and judgment.
    Mark Fitzgerald is E&P's editor-at-large
  2. McCain release his tax returns yet?
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