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OTHER OPINION: Sunshine Week

This time of year, most Central Minnesotans see those five words as the final battle cry against Old Man Winter. After all, we just sprung ahead.

While we definitely concur, we urge readers to hear “Let the sun shine in!” with a different ear — one tuned into the importance of transparency in your government.

Welcome to Sunshine Week 2011, an annual effort to remind all Americans about the importance of open government and freedom of information. 

And in case you forgot, 2010 saw many developments (or lack thereof) that threaten to block the sunshine and keep you, the taxpayers, from accessing public information, especially in a timely manner.

Look no further than the January 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and labor unions to pay for campaign ads directly from their general treasuries. The 5-4 ruling wiped out decades of court precedents and created the potential for deep-pocketed special interests to dominate campaigns even more.

Minnesota took that advice to heart and last spring amended disclosure laws. These actions proved critical and beneficial to Minnesota voters in the race for governor. The changes, which were opposed by corporations in a protracted fall court fight, allowed voters to learn before Election Day what groups were funding which ads for (and against) which candidates.

While that’s a good example of successful efforts to maintain and increase transparency, there are many other issues in which the sunshine is not being let in.

Perhaps the two best examples emanate from President Obama himself. Upon taking office, he vowed to expand access to information, but there has yet to be documented evidence he’s made good on that promise. And recently in Wisconsin it took a Freedom of Information request to force Gov. Scott Walker to release e-mails sent to Democrats about his controversial legislation.

Let the sun shine in!