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Gianforte asks court to help keep public out of his business – Daily Montanan

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“Let’s talk about the millionaires. They are not like you or me. I think. They are different.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte doesn’t just think he’s better than us.

he claims it.

In a recent court filing defending his decision not to publish a single piece of paper, the governor of Montana said that not only is he different and better than the rest of us, but he alone is Montana. And perhaps most insultingly, he’s trying to use the state’s constitution to give him that power.

When business leaders enter politics, as Gianforte did, they often paint a pretty word picture when they talk about running government like a business. It’s a popular metaphor, and it seems to make some sense unless you think too hard about it. But their oversimplified approach to governance shows that most of them have little understanding of the work of government. When it comes to educating a child or helping a struggling family find services, the income statement doesn’t translate easily. There is likely to be.

But business leaders like Gianforte, who often struggle so hard, think differently when it comes to the level of scrutiny they have to endure from the curious and hostile public alike. . They repel the idea that the public should be able to see what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Transparency, compromise and accountability – the hallmarks of good government and the checks introduced by our Founding Fathers and Mothers – are taxing, meddling and insulting to rich and successful businessmen like Gianforte. . After all, do those of us who have tasted as little entrepreneurial success as him have any right to question a man of his feat?

And that’s where the constitution comes into play.

The State Constitution states that the public has two fundamental rights: observation and participation. This includes the right to see public records and the right to participate in or observe the decision-making process.

Apparently, Gianforte doesn’t think much of them because he’s trying to block them both.

When he took office, he created a tracking form to monitor the bill’s passage through the legislative process. The form apparently included comments from administrative and departmental officials that Gianforte used to decide whether to sign the measure into law.

I can’t say more than that because I don’t know. A request for official documents filed shortly after the end of the 2021 legislative session was denied. Gianforte’s office said all of these forms – I don’t know how many – are frankly not the business of the general public.

Recognizing that Montana’s right-to-know provision is one of the strongest in the nation and has been well-established by courts over decades, Gianforte notes that he and other Republicans often You’re doing exactly what you’re denying. In other words, granting “executive privilege”. It’s a concept that even his own attorney admits doesn’t exist in current state law.

At a court briefing, Gianforte’s attorneys said, “Executive communication privileges and deliberative process privileges also exist under Montana’s common law and are necessary for essential governmental and public purposes, and therefore the Court has determined that these We can (and should) recognize and apply privileges.”

In other words, he encourages judges to become activists.

But these statements are a twisted version of the half-truth. The concept of executive privilege is not recognized as such because of the strong public right to know. And the executive privileges that existed in common law are vestiges, not extensions, of the state’s weak laws replaced by the 1972 Constitution.

Any court should be suspended when an executive, such as a governor, explicitly seeks to grant additional powers that deprive the public of transparency and accountability. Our Constitution clearly grants the public an explicit right to see how decisions are made. Leaders should provide documentation and access to see how and why decisions are made.

This right to know, which Gianforte wishes to eliminate by finding words that simply do not exist in the courtroom, has left Gianforte walled up and inaccessible to most of the press and the public, The lines are carefully scripted and people appropriately love them.

Gianforte continues to decline regular press conferences where he can ask tough questions. This is not a press whining about Access, but a real-life example of how his administration works and how trying to answer controversies about what he thinks is next to impossible. One of the few ways the public knows what Forte is thinking is through the very documents his office produces.

But now Gianforte wants the court to close that trickle of information as well. Because he needs a means by which he can collect his “frank” opinions “privately”.

To me, the problem with Gianforte is not that there is too much information, but that there is not enough information published. It’s funny that a man who has poured so much of his fortune into running for public office seems to want to cut off the public from public office. and grant the privilege of silence while deliberating the policies that will become law for the rest of us.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right: rich people are different from you and me.

Montana Constitution, Article 2:

Section 9. Right to Know. No person shall be deprived of the right to inspect documents or to observe the deliberations of any public agency or agency of the State Government and its subdivisions, unless the demands of individual privacy clearly outweigh the merits of public disclosure. must not.

Section 8. Participation Rights. The public has the right to expect government agencies to provide reasonable opportunities for citizens to participate in the operations of government agencies before making final decisions as provided by law.