Max here, with a brief check-in from a ship steaming toward Jamaica. My quick perusal of the Arkansas Blog this morning brought an occasion to agree wholeheartedly with the Arkansas Republican Party and I didn’t want to let the opportunity for harmony pass.
The GOP yesterday sued Gov. Mike Beebe under the Freedom of Information Act to review applications for state appointments. The governor will fight the lawsuit.
I’ve argued tirelessly, tiresomely and fruitlessly for years that every governor since I arrived in Arkansas in 1973 has used an overbroad interpretation of the FOI’s exemption for “working papers” of the governor. In short, the governors have said everything in their office is protected by that dome of secrecy.
The issue hasn’t been fully litigated. It needs to be. In some states, the statutes make clear definitions of what constitutes a working paper of the governor. It is a term of law and broad categories of infiormation are open to inspection. Certainly, a governor’s private thoughts and advice from staffers on sensitive matters might be due some consideration. But, too often, governors have taken information in from other state agencies and the public — information that was clearly public in nature — and made it secret in the sheltering arms of the governor’s office.
One of the worst offenders, you might remember, was Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee. He carried it to absurd extremes in fighting release of information about everything from clemency decisions to hard drive destruction to handling of his appointees who ran into trouble on the job. (An example of the last brought a successful FOI action that unearthed some racy e-mail in a Huckabee appointee’s account.)
Anyway, let the suit proceed. All the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court. And let’s hope for some precedent-setting sunshine. Because you may be sure that if a Republican succeeds Beebe, the necessity for gubernatorial secrecy in appointment deliberations — and everything else — will suddenly seem worth a second thought.
Back to the boat drinks.
PS — Maybe what’s needed here is a friend-of-the-court intervention to ensure that the full measure of this issue is litigated, not just a targeted GOP jab.