The most senior reporters in the Missouri Capitol have seen state officials and state lawmakers facing the possibility of imprisonment far more willing to answer reporters’ questions about their actions than Governor Nixon has been willing to talk about what his Revenue Department is up to.
Nixon issued a statement yesterday blasting lawmakers for only funding the state motor vehicle licensing division for eight months in the next fiscal year. Legislators say they’ll provide the remaining four months of money if the Revenue Department stops illegally scanning and keeping personal information from people seeking drivers licenses and other forms of state license or ID.
Nixon called reporters to his office where he read his statement saying he’ll lay off employees because of the legislature’s actions, which he says could harm Missouri’s great bond rating and then hightailed it out of the room without allowing reporters to ask any questions.
Shortly afterwards, Senator Kurt Schaefer, who is the architect behind the fund-withholding movement, met with reporters to react to the Governor’s announcement. Reporters asked him 14 questions. He answered every one including the one about the bond rating statement, which he called “absurd.”
Fourteen questions answered by Schaefer. Zero questions answered by the Governor. You can decide whose image was enhanced based on those two events.
Then there is the Missouri House which has kicked up its share of dust about the Revenue Department’s accumulation of information, particularly about owners of concealed weapons permits and distribution of that information. Somebody using a House computer tried to hack into the Office of Administration computer system to see that list. OA wants to know who the hacker was. The House has refused an open records request from OA about who did that or whose computer was used. Back home that’s called dishing it out but not being able to take it.
The passage of time and the perspective it brings will evaluate this entire situation someday. But for now it’s clear that ambitious Republicans have seized on this issue and they’re going to beat this drum as long as they can. GOP legislators, many with their eyes on their own aspirations for 2016, have found an issue that hits Mr. and Mrs. Joe Missouri in the card pockets of their wallets and purses. Additionally, they’ve found something they can use to attack Nixon if he aspires to something beyond the governorship that same year. In fact, the commercials are running already.
There are far more elements than these in this confrontation. In a few days when the legislature has ended its imprisonment of our existence, we might be able to sort back through the stories we’ve done for the last couple of months and look at what is substance and what has been bluster. But after yesterday’s events, we offer this observation:
The senior reporters in the Capitol press corps have through the years noticed some things about stones and politics. Some people throw stones. Some people use stones to build bunkers. Sometimes they’re the same people.
The “Bipartisan Investigative Committee on Privacy Protection” that was recently formed will no doubt have meetings, as a report is scheduled to issue from them on September 1.
Don’t you wonder if the meetings will be open to the public? This is the most serious matter: did officials of our state government violate state law, or not? Do we really have to keep going over this? Does the formation of the committee by Missouri Speaker Tim Jones put the “discovery” out of the public domain?
If you listened to Speaker Jones press conference, he explained why someone in the House tried to access that information. They had been told that it was protected but when they looked the portal was still up. So they used a bunch of passwords trying to see if it could easily be hacked. The result was the portal was pulled down. If the portal had been taken down as had been expected NOBODY would have been able to access it.