Response mixed to MFOIC’s openness challenge to Legislature candidates

For Release Monday 10-27-08

Contacts:Mal Leary, President MFOIC mal@mainecapitolnews.com; 621-0702
Judy Meyer, Vice President MFOIC jmeyer@sunjournal.com; 689-2902

In early September, the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition challenged all candidates for the Maine Senate and House of Representatives to sign the Coalition’s pledge to support open government and public access. The response has been mixed.

“The MFOIC believes that freedom of speech, open meetings of government and access to public records are fundamental tenets of democracy,” said MFOIC President Mal Leary. “We would like to believe candidates for the legislature agree, but relatively few of the 371 House and Senate candidates have signed the pledge to support Maine’s long tradition of openness.”

Candidates for the State Senate had the best response rate, with 40 percent of the candidates signing the pledge. Among House candidates, only 24 percent of all the candidates signed the pledge.

The MFOIC mailed pledge forms to each legislative candidate and has posted the names and districts of all candidates that signed the pledge on its website, www.mfoic.orgCandidates can still sign the pledge by email and be listed on the website.

“It is important for us all to know that the people we elect as our personal representatives are pledging to uphold our right to access government,” said Judy Meyer, Vice President of the MFOIC. “These pledges serve as a personal guarantee that we are electing people who will honor Maine’s right to know law, which is our best guarantee of government transparency and accountability.”

When Maine’s Freedom of Access Act became law in 1959, the Legislature found and declared that “public proceedings exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the Legislature that their actions be taken openly and that the records of their actions be open to public inspection and their deliberations be conducted openly.”

However, since that first measure became law; state lawmakers have enacted hundreds of exceptions to the law.

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition believes that government best serves the public when it operates in the most open manner possible. Our members, which include media organizations, lawyers, academicians, public-policy groups and like-minded individuals, strive to ensure that the public is informed about government actions to the fullest extent possible.

The MFOIC will continue to update its website through Election Day and urges Mainers to take the time to see if their local candidates have signed the open government pledge.

MFOIC urges candidates to pledge to support open government

Contacts:Mal Leary, MFOIC President Judy Meyer, MFOIC Vice President
mal@mainecapitolnews.com; 621-0702 jmeyer@sunjournal.com; 689-2902

The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition has challenged all candidates for the Maine Senate and House of Representatives to sign the Coalition’s pledge to support open government and public access.

The Coalition has mailed pledge forms to each legislative candidate and will post the signed pledges at its, website, www.mfoic.org, as they are returned. The Coalition encourages citizens to check that list to determine whether the candidates seeking to represent them have pledged to be accountable to the public’s right to know.

“The MFOIC believes that freedom of speech, open meetings of government, and access to public records are fundamental tenets of democracy,” said MFOIC President Mal Leary.”Mainers have a long history of open government, and we are seeking a pledge from all the candidates for the House and Senate to support openness in government.”

When Maine’s Freedom of Access Act became law in 1959, the Legislature found and declared that “public proceedings exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the Legislature that their actions be taken openly and that the records of their actions be open to public inspection and their deliberations be conducted openly.” Since that time, however, state lawmakers have enacted hundreds of exceptions to the law.

The MFOIC believes that there is an ongoing need for vigilance to keep government open and transparent.The group is urging candidates to recognize that need by signing the pledge of support, which reads:

“As a candidate for ________, I, __________, endorse the purpose of Maine’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws to ensure and facilitate the public’s understanding of governmental processes and problems. Therefore, I pledge to support at every opportunity the public policy of the State of Maine that the people have the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their political power. Specifically, I pledge to support legislation to strengthen the letter and the spirit of Maine’s Open Meeting and Open Records laws.”
The Maine Freedom of Information Coalition believes that government best serves the public when it operates in the most open manner possible. Our members, which include media organizations, lawyers, academicians, public-policy groups and like-minded individuals, strive to ensure that the public is informed about government actions to the fullest extent possible.

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