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editorial

Openness on political questionnaires: Brownsberger sets the standard

State Senator Will Brownsberger, who is running for the US House in the Fifth District, has set a new benchmark for political transparency. Brownsberger has posted on his campaign website every questionnaire he has filled out for the organizations that endorse candidates — many of which might fairly be characterized as “special interests.” Go to his site, click on “about,” and then click “questionnaire responses.” Presto: You can read what the House hopeful told the American Federation of Teachers. Or the AFL-CIO. Or Planned Parenthood. Or the Sierra Club.

Other candidates, for any office, should follow suit. They should not be making secret commitments to any organization, no matter what its political leanings. In their confidential questionnaires, some groups seek pledges on relatively obscure issues that don’t otherwise come up during a campaign. But promises offered on those matters can tie an elected official’s hands or commit him or her to costly arrangements that aren’t in the public interest.

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Some organizations prefer that their questionnaires remain confidential because they don’t want the public to learn what commitments they are seeking. Still, Brownsberger said he didn’t encounter many objections when he informed those groups he would be posting their completed questionnaires. And whether they objected or not, he made their questions and his answers public on his website.

If other candidates don’t do the same, voters should factor that failing into their decision about whom to support.

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