The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based think tank promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency in government, scored an important victory Tuesday evening when Gov. Jay Inslee's office rejected his predecessor's dubious claims of executive privilege and provided the Foundation with six documents that Gov. Christine Gregoire had for years fought to keep hidden.
From January 2007 to April 2011, Gov. Gregoire attempted to evade more than 500 public records requests by claiming that her office was not bound by state laws requiring disclosure. In 2011 the Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit demanding the governor's office release several of these records.
The Freedom Foundation fought the case from Thurston County Superior Court to the Washington State Supreme Court, which heard arguments last September. As the Foundation argued, transparency must extend even to the Governor's office. Legal briefs supporting the Foundation's position were filed by diverse allies including the Allied Daily Newspapers, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, National Freedom of Information Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union, Institute for Justice and Washington Coalition for Open Government.
Leading up to the Supreme Court arguments, newspapers all over the state, including the Seattle Times, The Olympian and The Spokesman Review issued editorials supporting the Freedom Foundation.
Prior to the November election, The Olympian reported that candidate Inslee pledged to not invoke executive privilege to block the release of records. Since taking office earlier this year, Gov. Inslee has made good on that pledge. His release of the documents at issue in the Foundation's case is also consistent with his statement during the campaign.
"I am pleased to see Governor Inslee keep his word and not invoke a privilege that does not exist," said Jonathan Bechtle, CEO of the Freedom Foundation.
"Due to the support from people and media all over the state," he said, "it's clear we are showing the way forward toward a more transparent government."