By Adam Andrzejewski
CEO, For The Good Of Illinois
March 16, 2011
According to the Elmhurst Press, “Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan bills herself the champion of open government and Freedom of Information Act reform.” That’s a bold statement in such a corrupt and opaque state, but a tremendous bump-sticker for political marketing.
So, where’s Lisa? This week, the Illinois Senate is debating SB1645 which would severely curtail the citizen’s “Right to Know” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In 2008, Lisa Madigan personally spearheaded the rewrite of the Illinois FOIA law. It’s her baby. But, SB1645 would gut it. Gutting citizen access to public information, SB1645 would strictly limit and regulate citizen questions of our government.
Where is Lisa Madigan?
Two years ago, in the days after Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Tribune editorialized that Illinois should adopt the Florida standard of sunshine transparency- every public document online. Government wasn’t complying with information requests on a timely basis. In the internet age, citizens shouldn’t bear the burden of requesting. Government should be proactive.
Lisa Madigan’s own office was a prime example of the government compliance problem. In the years leading up to the FOIA re-write, she was one of the most egregious offenders of the Act. A State Journal Register investigation of freedom of information requests received by Madigan’s office in 2006 and 2007 revealed that she was late almost half the time in responding. Specifically, in 225 of 537 cases, Madigan’s office did not respond within the statutorily mandated seven working days.
While spearheading the “reform” and rewrite of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), did Lisa Madigan advocate on behalf of citizens? Did she make the FOIA request obsolete and “Open the Books” on state and local government by requiring them to proactively post online all public information? No. Watch Madigan’s office stumble in flummox on my question at a Better Government Association forum celebrating her tepid “reforms” (two years ago). Click here to watch.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan rejected the gold standard Florida transparency, and advocated a weak set of status quo reforms. Then, she wrote the legislation to empower her office as the compliance officer- the arbiter and ruler in disputes involving of the walls and hurdles of public information.
Where’s Lisa? While her own lackluster “reform” is being gutted (SB1645), Madigan is silent. She’s too busy making the citizens transparent while government remains a fortress.
Last week, General Madigan issued a legal opinion stating that the Illinois State Police would have to disclose the personal information of every law abiding gun owner within the Firearm Owners Identification Database (FOID) to the Associated Press. Since the 1960’s, Illinois forces gun owners to register with the state. Now, General Madigan is spearheading the legal maneuver to force the private information public.
Fifteen months ago in Champaign Circuit Court, Attorney General Lisa Madigan made the legal argument that “citizens of Illinois don’t have a fundamental right to a secret ballot”. The top law enforcement officer in Illinois advocates for a transparent ballot box. This egregious argument received scant attention. Thank fully, polls show that 90% of the public feels that the ballot box should remain private and sacrosanct.
As the top law enforcement officer in the state, has the Attorney General helped reign in public corruption? Lisa Madigan’s office has 712 employees and can’t find public corruption anywhere.
Illinois government is forcing transparency on the private sector while government remains a fortress.
If you are a private business owner, your books are open and transparent to government. The Department of Revenue, Department of Labor, OSHA, sales tax inspectors, gas tax inspectors, etc. all have the power to audit your books. You are guilty until proven innocent.
If you own private property- you are publically transparent. Private property information in most populated counties is online in the government databases. One just needs to search by address to find full details: purchase price, amount of down payment, date and amount of mortgage, lot size, bathrooms, bedrooms, and square footage. In the internet age, private property owners are fully transparent.
From the top elected official to the top law enforcement official, filtered down to the local government units, Illinois government is a fortress that resists a true partnership with its people.