Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Citizens shut out

Republicans that control the Idaho Legislature apparently haven't yet gotten the message from Republicans who control the U.S. Senate and House in Washington.

The GOP is in a crisis of confidence because of secrecy -- secret wiretaps of Americans' phones, secret overseas prisons used by the CIA for torture, secret White House meetings with energy executives, secret deals between a crooked lobbyist and congressmen.

And yet, here the Republican state Legislature along with the Republican attorney general's office are at the state Supreme Court, arguing stoutly for the right of lawmakers to hold closed-door meetings to discuss public business ostensibly considered too delicate for the public to hear.

This is raw material for wider abuses that inevitably grow out of government-by-stealth. Closed-door legislating is fertile ground for deal-making shenanigans that work against public interests.

Legislators who defend these closed committee meetings try to make their duties appear to be on a par with CIA agents discussing espionage informants in a foreign country.

The stance of lawmakers has been so unpersuasive and silly that the argument has been shifted to debating legalisms about what the state Constitution means by open meetings.

The public should not be fooled. The intent of lawmakers on the side of closed-door government is to deny the public full oversight and full information about the conduct of elected officials.

What their intent actually should be is a vigorous demand that all government deliberations be open to the public, and not concoct reasons to deprive citizens of full access to their business.

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