By editorial board • 

Records czar finds Oregon is no Eden

If your mother says she loves you, ask for a second opinion.

That venerable bit of journalistic wisdom is venerated for a reason. Everyone, not just journalists, should view the world with a gimlet eye.

OK, maybe you can trust Mom. However, if the government says it loves you, you definitely want to demand supporting documentation. The government’s response will tell you a lot.

Consider the case of Ginger McCall.

McCall moved to Oregon 18 months ago to become the state’s first official public records advocate. Formerly a staff attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor, she fled the federal circus for a world where a fact is a fact and the government doesn’t care who knows it.

She never found this Eden, however. Instead, she found Oregon under Gov. Kate Brown.

McCall quit her new job abruptly this week, claiming Brown’s general counsel, Misha Isaak, told her to represent the governor’s political interests on the state’s Public Records Advisory Council, but do it on the sly.

McCall claims Isaak requested she cater to Brown even if it meant operating against the will of the records council and the legislative mandate that she function independently of partisan politics.

Of course, McCall could be overstating the situation. But her track record on both the state and national levels is unassailable.

Brown and her entourage, on the other hand, have always seemed more interested in representing her political base than the state as a whole. They take to the bunker when faced with even the mildest criticism or opposition.

It’s a perfect lesson in political hypocrisy.

Brown created McCall’s job expressly to calm concerns about secrecy raised under her predecessor, John Kitzhaber. Kitzhaber, under fire for his fiancée’s influence peddling, virtually built the bunker Brown now occupies.

Brown supposedly hired McCall to make state and local governments more transparent, by mediating disputes over public records requests and leading the newly created records advisory council. Or maybe it was all just window dressing.

This current drama illustrates the difference between pious public statements about transparency and the knee-jerk impulse of governments — from city halls to executive mansions — to spin and suppress any information they can’t control.

Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration in U.S. history. Yet, he relentlessly prosecuted whistleblowers and seized confidential communications between news organizations and their sources.

Those who wage open warfare on the facts are easy to spot. We need also be wary of those whose words say one thing while their actions convey something entirely different.


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