Accountability Matters -- Standing Up For Our Right To Know

From closed bridges in New Jersey, to favors for polluters in North Carolina, to accepting expensive gifts in Virginia from high-dollars donors in looking for favors, Americans are tired of watching governors and their staffs misuse their public office for personal and political gain.

Enough is enough.

The American public is tired of closed-door decision-making in our governors' mansions. As a result, a number of state-based watchdog groups around the country aim to shine the light of day on these Governors' mansions. Coordinated by ProgressNow, these groups are launching a first-of-its kind, effort to shed a light on the actions of governors in a multi-state public transparency effort. The Executive Accountability Project will seek to make public, through the use of freedom of information requests, email conversations between governors and their top appointed staff.

This effort has started with groups in five states: Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and more state governors may soon receive similar scrutiny soon.

The Citizens' United ruling, the growth of stealth corporate funded lobbying outfits like ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, and the normalization of a revolving door between elected office and private companies have combined to create an unprecedented level of corporate influence in the decision-making process of our elected officials. This has created a culture of self-serving deal making in many of our state capitals.

But here's the key: This culture has operated essentially in secret, relying on a lack of attention to use public goods for private personal gain. This coordinated, multi-state Executive Accountability Project will allow the public to get a never-before-seen look at the inner workings of how their elected officials are conducting their business behind closed doors.

It is time we shed a light on the egregious access that special interests and lobbyists have to our states' top elected officials. The public has the right to know how these elected officials, who serve at the behest of the people, are operating behind closed doors.

Previously, citizen efforts using freedom of information act requests in this manner have been ad hoc, targeted at a particular piece of information or topic. Many of these past efforts have been effective. But what they haven't done is provide the public a comprehensive picture of how their governor and gubernatorial staff operate.

This effort will work to change this toxic culture and ensure that state elected and appointed officials operate in an open and transparent matter. This campaign is a first step in shedding greater sunlight on often arcane and secretive inner workings of government.

We are hopeful that governors and their staffs will see these requests as an opportunity to restore public confidence in their offices and actions as executives. We look forward to their cooperation and sharing what we find with the public that they have pledged to serve.