MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Columns

June 4, 2007

Senator puts hold on greater freedom of information

Congress, apparently content to explore ever new depths in public disapproval, is on the verge of having a single member derail the most meaningful reform in years of the federal Freedom of Information Act.



How, you ask, when overwhelming majorities support the legislation in both the House and Senate?



The secret hold, of course. Ever heard of the secret hold? It's a beauty - a real relic of the stuffed shirts of yesteryear, smoke-filled rooms and fat cats with stogies guffawing over the latest bamboozle of the taxpaying schmucks. Think country clubs, secret handshakes and bizarre rituals.



Members of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation's largest journalism-advocacy organization, used the power of the blogosphere to find out whose legislative bludgeon was buried in the back of open government. We called every senator, one by one, until at last - when it became clear he could hide no longer - Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), came blinking and grimacing into the sunlight and admitted that it was he who placed a secret hold … on a bill that addresses secrecy in government.



You can't make this stuff up.



This is how it works in Washington, kids: Sen. Kyl - this year's Secrecy Champion -- has several as-yet-unstated objections to the Freedom of Information Reform Act, a truly wonderful bill that would significantly improve one of the strongest tools Americans have to supervise the inner workings of government and to hold elected officials accountable.



The bill has plenty of bipartisan support. It is the product of tireless work and advocacy by many open government and press freedom groups and fine legislative craftsmanship by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The U.S. House of Representatives in March approved a version of the bill with 80 Republicans joining 228 Democrats for a 308-117 vote.

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