Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sun shines on secret donors

Idaho’s of-the-people, by-the-people Sunshine Law pried open the doors of a political organization that tried to hide the names of donors who backed three laws on yesterday’s ballots. The laws purported to reform education by diverting money from teachers’ pay to buying laptops for students, by removing teachers’ ability to negotiate class sizes and curriculum, and by forcing students to take on-line courses.

Backed by the law, Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa took Education Voters of Idaho to court and won.

Fourth District Judge Michael Wetherell ordered the group to divulge donors that included Idaho grocery heir Joe Scott, the largest donor at $250,000; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the group’s second-largest donor at $200,000; and Idaho millionaire Duane Hagadone, who contributed $15,000.

Bloomberg apparently wanted to bring his beefs with New York City’s teachers to Idaho. But instead of doing it openly, as any self-respecting public official should, he chose the dark backroom.

Hagadone, whose company owns six newspapers in the Idaho panhandle, originally contributed to a different political action committee called Yes to Education that had a public list of donors. He retrieved his money and gave it to the group that offered secrecy. Reporters and editors at those newspapers must be cringing.

In 1974, Idaho citizens proposed and passed the Sunshine Initiative. It offers no quarter for people, corporations or associations that want to manipulate the levers of public power anonymously.

The Sunshine Law did what it was supposed to do. Citizens should be proud. As for the secret donors and those who tried to shield them, they should be red-faced.

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