Thursday, January 20, 2011

Raising the Bar in Economic Transparency

ICPR was proud to stand up with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon today to trumpet her new transparency initiatives.

In addition to an Executive Order banning her staff from accepting meals from lobbyists and her campaign from taking contributions from employees of statewide officers, she also released a "compiled statement of financial condition," prepared by her accountant. The release offers a view of her financial holdings unparralleled among other elected officials.

Simon was joined at the press conference by Sen. Dan Kotowski, sponsor in the last legislative session of SB 2216, to overhaul the Statement of Economic Interest. The Statement of Economic Interest is required by the state Constitution of all candidates for office and also of many non-elected officials. It's a two-page form, and most legislators are able to answer "does not apply" to all eight questions. While few officials may be willing to match Simon's transparency, there is no doubt that the current Statement fails to provide voters with adequate information to judge conflicts of interest faced by our public officials.

It has become common for candidates to release their tax forms, but since these focus more on income than on holdings, tax forms are not well suited to educating voters about all conflicts that officials will face.

We applaud Lt. Gov. Simon for her stance on transparency, reminding us all that state statutes set a floor, not a ceiling, for disclosure. And we commend Simon and Kotowski both for their determination to improve disclosure of conflicts of interest to the public.

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