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OPINION: Transparency in government has a down side – for politicians

(PHOTO: KSL Newsradio's Kelli Pierce)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

Transparency in government is almost always good for democracy. Citizens need to know through the news media how their taxes are being spent to fund police, politicians, infrastructure, military, etc.

Some information, such as battle plans, needs to remain hidden.

Until recently, if you filed to run for office, you had to tell state or local government some of your personal information, such as phone number, email, home address, etc.

That information was available for the public to see.

But state Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, changed all that with a bill in 2019, which became law.

If you navigate to the lieutenant governor’s website, you will find many candidates do not disclose their home addresses.

I’m OK with that.

Government transparency could hurt politicians at home

In defending his legislation last year, Anderegg said “an emotionally disturbed person” didn’t like the way he had voted on a particular bill, obtained his home address from the website above and showed up at his home.

He was not at home. His daughter answered the door.

“Needless to say, it wasn’t a pretty or pleasant circumstance,” Anderegg said. 

Candidates, not their children or spouses, run for office, so withholding the candidate’s home addresses is wholly appropriate. 

What should we know about where politicians live? 

For the state House, all the public needs to know is if the candidate resides within the legislative district of which he or she in running to represent.

Utah state Sen. Deidre Henderson, a Republican and the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, explains why she voted for Anderegg’s bill last year.

She said a couple of years ago a group handed out fliers, which included “complete lies,” and printed her home address on them. At the time, she said her daughters were home alone. 

“I was really quite frightened by that,” she said.

This is a good example of when transparency should not be the rule.

 

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.