Opinion: Subpoenas can be beautiful things

From The Denver Post:  By Alicia Caldwell Denver Post Editorial Writer

The Chris Christie “Bridge-gate” scandal was the talk of the political world last week, and it was no different here at The Post.

At one point, I heard a colleague mutter something along the lines of: “Nothing like that ever happens in Colorado. The politicians are too clean.”

That stuck with me, and I wondered whether Colorado is indeed a haven for the more virtuous. Is there really less here in the way of rank ambition and unprincipled use of power?

Frankly, that’s hard to believe. We do, however, have weak legal tools for extracting such information, and the ones we have are underutilized or constantly under attack by — what a surprise — the governments whose actions we seek to examine. On top of that, we have a string of unfavorable court decisions that make access even tougher.

In the Christie case, staff for the governor of New Jersey sent e-mails through private accounts to orchestrate gridlock on the busiest bridge in the world.

The Record, a venerable newspaper in northern New Jersey, filed a public records request last month seeking e-mails between the governor’s staff and the public authority that operates the George Washington Bridge. The governor’s office responded, saying they had no information.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

The scandal came to light because the newspaper also laid the same request on the New Jersey Legislature, which had a committee with subpoena power investigating the mysterious traffic jam.

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