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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Are You Ready For Blogshine Sunday and Sunshine Week?

This coming Sunday is Blogshine Sunday, the first day of Sunshine Week, which is a national commemoration of the First Amendment, Freedom of Information in government and the public's right to know how its business is being conducted by elected officials and permanent employees of government at all levels.

Journalists and bloggers across the country are publishing news stories, op-eds and features about how everybody wins when citizens and officials alike know the public's business is not to be conducted behind closed doors. They are also writing about topics such as the importance of laws like the federal Freedom of Information Act of 1966, which guarantees all Americans the right to see official documents paid for with their tax dollars.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, have introduced a bill to reform the federal FOIA, known as "The Open Government Act of 2005." The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled the first subcommittee hearing on the Open Government Act for Tuesday, March 15, to coincide with Sunshine Week. I will be among a group of journalists, First Amendment advocates and legal experts providing testimony in support of the measure during that hearing. I'll post my testimony here as soon as the hearing concludes.

It has long puzzled me why more than a few Washington conservatives traditionally pay relatively little attention to issues like FOIA. Among other baleful effects of that paucity of people on the Right has been that more of the people who have been active on such issues in recent decades have been connected with causes of the Left.

Thus, conservatives drifted even further away from the issues, unfortunately, and thus allowed the Left to co-opt an issue area that I believe is fundamentally and thoroughly a root conservative principle.

Before he was elected to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn compiled an enviable record as Attorney General in Texas and made aggressive administration of the Lone Star State's open government laws a top priority. It's no coincidence that Cornyn's opening up of the records of state bureaus that had for decades been dominated by Democrats came as the Texas GOP became the majority party there. Cornyn understands that liberals are the party of activist government and thus have the most to lose from greater transparency in government.

And that is why I believe conservatives should be in the forefront of activities like Blogshine Sunday and Sunshine Week. Bloggers of all persuasions also have a big stake in such activities. The reason is simple: An ever-expansive, intrusive government is antithetical to the preservation and expansion of individual liberty and democratic accountability. Put another way, opening the doors of Big Government is like shining the morning sunlight in a vampire's eyes.

The Internet may well be the greatest gift ever for the cause of transparency and accountability in government because it makes accessible in a few clicks of a mouse mountains of government documents, data and other materials that before could require months of digging to locate and even then there was no guarantee access would be provided to them by the bureaucrats who control them.

I have a special post for Blogshine Sunday that will appear in this space, as well as in some of the Maryland newspapers. In the meantime, here are links to some of my previous Townhall.com and Knight Ridder Tribune columns on various aspects of these issues. You should also check out these materials on the Open Government Act of 2005.