Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No limits on information

I never thought I'd be endorsing a political stance of Jeff Inglis, managing editor for the Portland Phoenix alternative weekly, but he nailed Chris Korzen today and got transparency and free speech exactly right.

Korzen is the founder of the generic left wing organization "Maine's Majority" that put out a press release this morning titled "Former Treasurer Bruce Poliquin abused Freedom of Access Act to obtain public list for personal use."

Poliquin used a state law that gave him access to a list of 10,000 email addresses, including mine, that he had previously used when he was state treasurer so he could send them political messages. Korzen's press release said this is not illegal, but an abuse of the system.

Then Inglis nailed him to a tree, as Korzen also filed a FOAA request to get email addresses of people to send political messages to, such as ones on this very issue. Here's just a taste, following after Korzen retreated and said Poliquin's abuse was to Constant Contact's anti-spam policy:

He may well have violated terms of a private agreement with a private company. That's not my beef - and it doesn't seem to be yours, either, from the release. 
You're claiming it's an "abuse" of open-government laws for a requester to get information from the government and use it for whatever the requester wants. 
Problem is, there's no other purpose of open-government laws - they exist so that people can ask questions of their government and get answers, and then publicize those answers, for whatever purpose the requester has. 
Go ahead and shout about him breaking the rules of Constant Contact. Nobody cares, and you know that - which is why you made the release sound like he had misused open-government laws, when he used them exactly properly. And so did you, in announcing to people that he did this. The issue comes when you call both of those things - which are procedurally, legally, and morally identical - "abuse."

Do read the entire thing. Inglis is exactly right that a government clamp-down on what one can do with the information they get from a FOAA request would defeat the purpose of the act.

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