A Surprising History of Political Disclosure

Friday, July 20, 2012


This week, there were renewed calls from both sides of the aisle for Mitt Romney to release personal tax information. Joseph Thorndike, Director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts and a contributing editor for Tax Notes magazine tells Brooke that the history of this kind of disclosure from political candidates began with a little dog named Checkers.

Frank Ocean - Crack Rock

Comments [2]


I can certainly appreciate media like yourselves holding the feet of the powerful to the fire. You should!

But this transparency needs to go both ways, right? If Mr. Thorndike is right, and the goal is to know how people comport themselves when others are not looking, has OTM covered the man IN power? So here is a little OTM Scrutiny Theater:

It's interesting that you reached back to Nixon. Is that in part because David Axelrod has put out that Mitt Romney is “the most secretive candidate we’ve seen probably since Richard Nixon?” Amazingly, Axelrod said this just two weeks after his client invoked executive privilege — a term practically synonymous with Nixon and Watergate — to block the release of subpoenaed documents in the “Fast and Furious” scandal.

Ironic, considering Obama’s vow to lead the “most open and transparent [government] in history.”

Has OTM covered this administrations use of the 1917 Espionage Act six times to prosecute federal whistleblowers who leaked information to the media — twice the number brought in the entire previous 95 years? Yes, though not comparatively as you do here in this story.

Has OTM, despite the administrations declaration that lobbyists wouldn’t have special access, covered that White House staffers met with lobbyists off official property to avoid being forced to list them on visitor logs (the same logs that the White House had to be sued into making public)? Yes. Good job.

Has OTM covered the fact that the details of ObamaCare were hashed out in private — despite candidate Obama’s pledge to do it in public proceedings. A little.

Has OTM covered that Freedom of Information Act requests are regularly and aggressively fought in court — often with broader anti-transparency arguments than under President George W. Bush. The Department of Homeland Security is charging unprecedentedly high “processing fees” on FOIA requests — seemingly to discourage them. You seem to have lost interest in this, haven't you?

Or how about how Obama abolished his own “transparency czar” — barely a year into his term? Not really.

In fact, OTM has had little or no interest in Eric Holder or Fast and Furious (seriously, search "attorney general" in your website search engine) even as you did numerous stories on Alberto Gonzalez and John Ashcroft. No one got killed in their scandals though… Grade: F

My point is, you really don't have to go back to Tricky Dick to find a lack of transparency, do you? There is the guy in his old office right now to compare with Romney.

Jul. 21 2012 01:31 PM

Hey, who was that Mr. Sparkman that Nixon mentioned in the clip? Would that be his Democrat counterpart Sen. John Sparkman who was a notorious Alabama segregationist who liberal intellect Adlai Stevenson picked as his running mate in 1952? So much for disclosure.

Strange how the media's historical memory of this "adorable political theater" is mockingly retold for sixty years however Richard Nixon's segregationist Democrat opponent for the VP slot is airbrushed from history.
Then as now, an "open book" depends on how far the media care to ignore or magnify it's chapter and verses.

Apparently "trust issues" today vary between businessman Romney's tax returns and liberal intellect Obama's sealed academic records in the wake of his disputed autobiography.

As for adorable Checkers, both candidates should avoid dog stories.

Jul. 20 2012 08:14 PM

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