This is a follow-up to my last post. There are some ideas for transparency that seem much more reasonable to me. For example …
To state the obvious, public officials occupy a unique position of power and trust. I do not think that a criminal record is in all cases a disqualifier for public service, but I do think it is something that the public is entitled to know. Some criminals are repeat offenders, and I suspect that the everyday person thinks that having open criminal records is good public policy. So when I first filed a bill that would make the criminal records of government officials public, I figured most people would think it’s a good idea. And maybe it is: but most state legislators think differently.
But the Attorney General, the top law enforcement official in the state, thought it was a terrible idea:
Our Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (not to be confused with Steve Clark) also spoke against the bill; he said he thought the bill was too extensive — that letting the public do background checks on every "state legislator, Justice of the Peace and dogcatcher in Arkansas" granted too much access by too many people. We don’t actually have elections for dogcatcher in Arkansas, but it was interesting to see him say publicly what I suspect some elected officials thought privately.
He even thought that he should "protect the privacy" of criminals. Even those who work for the government:
The bill finally made it out of committee but didn’t fare so well on the floor. Attorney General McDaniel sent a letter to all legislators arguing that we should "protect the privacy" of criminals’ public records. That didn’t make much sense to me, but apparently it was more persuasive to others. When the vote was taken, government secrecy won and Freedom of Information lost; the bill failed 33-56.
I think that it would be great to know things like how many felons the Governor appointed. And how many felons work for the Attorney General. Doesn’t that seem more relevant than what lobbyists people met?