A week from now, the Oregon Sunshine Committee will be holding a public meeting. One of the committee’s main purposes is to review the hundreds of exemptions under Oregon’s Public Records Laws and eliminate those that are improper.
For example, those targeted at the Freedom Foundation at the behest of Gov. Kate Brown’s most prolific campaign donors, government unions.
It’s no secret such exemptions exist, and were specifically created to prevent the Freedom Foundation from contacting public employees about their constitutional rights to cease funding their unions.
Yet instead of eliminating these blatantly corrupt exemptions, Brown is now seeking to further limit the amount of public employee information that can be released under state transparency laws.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark June 27 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, the governor has issued a directive making it abundantly clear that her priorities lie with her campaign donors, not transparency.
The Oregonian editorial board recently pilloried this latest move from Brown, in which she directed state officials to work with the Oregon Sunshine Committee and other committees – all of which are supposedly intended to increase transparency, not make it worse – to recommend new legislation aimed at accomplishing her goal.
The article, headlined “Transparency in the post-Janus age,” is worth a read.
But The Oregonian isn’t alone in criticizing Brown’s stance on public records – or for that matter, the broader disturbing trend of Oregon government officials breaking the law to prevent the Freedom Foundation from providing information to union members about their rights.
Another editorial from the Albany Democrat-Herald, titled “Brown’s move on records is troubling,” hit the nail on the head, writing:
“The timing of (Brown’s) effort is suspicious, coming as it does after the state’s efforts to block the anti-union Freedom Foundation from obtaining the names and addresses of home health-care workers. After a 2014 Supreme Court opinion allowed those workers to opt out of paying union dues, the foundation sought that information so that it could send mailers to those workers. The state delayed the request until the Legislature passed a law exempting the information from public release.
If that union-dues issue sounds familiar, it’s because it was at the heart of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which ruled that public-union workers who choose not to join unions don’t have to pay “fair-share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining. The ruling is a big hit to public-employee unions.
It’s no secret that those unions are among the governor’s biggest supporters; in fact, she issued a statement last week after the Janus ruling saying that she stood by unions.
Fair enough. But does that pro-union stance include a willingness to weaken the state’s public records laws in what could be an attempt to protect the interests of those unions?… As the 2018 campaign for governor starts to heat up, these are questions that Brown needs to answer.”
Indeed she does. Brown’s recent actions likely won’t win her many public opinion points on transparency – ironically, one of her trademark issues – but it seems, as usual, she’s relying on government union campaign funds to help her overcome that hurdle in the coming election.
Time will tell whether she can. Because despite Brown’s best efforts to prevent the Freedom Foundation from informing public employees of their right to choose which entities (and thus political causes) to support, the Freedom Foundation’s outreach program is as robust as ever.
And the Janus decision is our message. By ensuring that employees can make their own decisions about union membership and dues payments, we’re proud to be restoring worker freedom, individual freedom, and thus public opinion to their rightful place above government union special interests.