Checks and balances

An investigative reporter at MSNBC recently reported that the news agency has received quotes from the Alaskan governorâÄôs office that PalinâÄôs e-mails will not be available until after the election for public use âÄî and they will cost an outrageous sum of $15,364,960. That the price tag surpasses $15 million and that Palin wonâÄôt voluntarily turn over the state e-mails âÄî which are public record âÄî illustrates the need to reform both federal and state sunshine laws. The so-called Troopergate scandal âÄî in which a bi-partisan investigation found that she abused her power as governor âÄî illustrates Palin is taking advantage of an opaque system without proper vetting from the press. This seems to be a pattern in politicians, and if they cannot be reformed the logical step would be to improve the laws which regulate them. PalinâÄôs office figured that with a computer programmerâÄôs salary retrieval of a single e-mail account would cost $960.31. Alaska, however, has 16,000 of these accounts. While compensating state employees fairly is perfectly reasonable, lawmakers need to reform sunshine regulations so that employee compensation does not hinder reporting and more broadly the public good. We suggest adjusting the federal Freedom of Information Act so that state and federal officials are held accountable for creating accessible databases while public records are being processed instead of after they are stored. The Founders knew that unbridled systems breed corrupt politicians. PalinâÄôs refusal to hand over the e-mails and the outlandish price tag associated with them hinders information gathering and thus plainly illustrates that any deviation from the logic of checks and balances is a regression from democracy.