Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission gives Phill Kline a win & sets an awful precedent

By Diane Silver

The state's ethics commission ruled yesterday that then Attorney General Phill Kline didn't violate the law when his staff copied a list of emails and used them for a campaign mailing.

The unanimous ruling dealt only with whether or not Kline's staff used a state computer to do the copying. On the real issue - of whether this should be public information -- the commission declared that anytime people give their names and addresses to the state, anyone else can get access to that information.

What a truly horrible idea. Is this true of those who report child abuse or of people blowing the whistle on a problem in state government?

The state ethics commission has now taken this issue beyond Kline and made it a concern for everyone. In essence, what the commission seems to be saying is that I or anyone else can get access to your personal information if you contact state government. How can that be a good idea?

The Lawrence Journal-World reported:
"I'm disappointed, but it's up to the commission to interpret the law," said commission attorney Donna Voth.

However, Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, said the law should be rewritten in response to the commission's decision.

"Clearly, when people are e-mailing state agencies, they're not expecting that person to turn their names into campaign lists," said Sawyer, the ranking Democrat on the House Elections and Governmental Organization Committee. "It's just wrong, if it technically violates the law or not. If it doesn't technically violate the law, we need to change the law."


Anonymous said...

Gary suggests:

If you don't like the Kansas Government Ethics Commission's decision allowing a political campaign to download e-mail addresses from a computer in the State Attorney Generals Office, try the following:

Hold your legislators accountable. Drive to Topeka. Bring along your own personal portable usb memory stick. And perhaps a written copy of the commissions determination. Then drop in on your state legislator. (They are all your public officials regardless of where you live and the district they represent.) Maybe start with the folks from the ethics committee.

Politely but firmly announce that you wish to download all of the e-mail addresses recorded in their (state owned / public property) computer e-mail program. Be sure to be on the look out for multiple computers too! Ask for access to all the computers not just the representatives or their clerks.
(what about blackberrys & palms?)

Offer to wait. And do. Consider bringing a thermos and a sack lunch. And smile a lot. If you have to wait long, maybe chat on the cell phone with your friends. Or talk radio. Or the newspaper. (bring your charger) Is the capital set up for wireless internet? BLOG! Share your story as you wait. And oh what the hell, offer to share your lunch too!

And remember in the name of energy conservation - CAR POOL! Bring your friends and spread out through the building. Hit the legislature first. Then the governors office, The Attorney General office, cross the steet to the justice building and the Docking complex, hit the department of motor vehicle, the state income tax office, SRS, the KBI, and Corrections. Hey, have fun with this, knock on random doors and always be polite.

When people deny you, nod agreably, ask their name, confirm the spelling, jot it down in a little black book, say thank you and walk on. If the police ask you to leave, smile politely,write down their name and badge number and comply.(If they want to take you into the police station, politely ask if you can download the information from thir computers. I think they have computers in their cars now, don't forget them.)

Stay on message. There is no such thing as privacy anymore.

Gary E. Bachman

Diane Silver said...

Oh my. I'm holding my sides, I'm laughing so hard. Well done!

Gary, You get the award for the funniest comment of the month. Your prize is to get posted on the main page.