Empire editorial: A little more disclosure, please

Posted: Monday, January 10, 2011

Some rules aren’t meant to be broken, and people who run for public office know this. That’s why the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) maintains a strict set of reporting rules for candidates and their campaign staffs to follow.

APOC is changing some of the rules, which may be a good thing. But the agency that demands full disclosure from public officials seems just a touch aloof about the potential for chaos its own lack of disclosure is brewing.

Hearings are going to take place in February and March on proposed law changes, but there’s no bridge document with blocked-out sections to show exactly where the rules have changed.

To make things more annoying, APOC won’t answer individual questions, as that might give “insiders” an advantage at the hearings.

The logical extension of that line of reasoning is this: It’s better for everyone to be at a disadvantage while commenting on complex public policy matters.

Somebody grab a teacup, it’s time to head down the rabbit hole.

It’s hard for the general public to find time to study fine details in campaign finance laws, and it’s a waste of time for elected officials affected by these laws to match up the old law with the new law (this is not a small law) and go line-by-line with a Sharpie marker to find the changes.

In this age of computer technology, it’s pretty easy to take a document, highlight or put a line through old text and then highlight the new text next to it.

A document like that, available on the APOC Web site, would inform those who need or want to know the exact changes proposed.

That way, when people go to the hearings they’ll know what they’re testifying about. Heck, they may not even want to go to the hearings if they like the changes.

We believe that people who run for office want to follow the rules, and that people who monitor the process deserve to know what’s going on.

APOC’s approach is like telling a class of students they’re having an open book test, then withholding the questions. It’s all there, just read it.

We think we know what’s missing here: APOC’s top brass seem to have forgotten that the agency is here to help the public understand the law, not to make things easy on itself.

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