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Dozens of Nevada candidates respond favorably to transparency query, many more have yet to reply


by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: More than 60 candidates for legislative and statewide public office have responded to a questionnaireseeking their views on several key government transparency issues.

The results have been posted on TransparentNevada, a website operated by the Nevada Policy Research Institute. The questions include whether candidates support giving lawmakers and the public three days to read bills before a vote and if candidates support a searchable database of campaign contribution and expense reports.

The responses have come from across the political spectrum, including seven Democrats, 35 Republicans, and 20 minor party and independent candidates running for offices from governor to the state Assembly.

“It really is fundamental, I think, to democratic government that we the people have a right to know how our elected representatives are conducting business and what they are doing with public money,” said Andy Matthews, vice president for operations and communications for NPRI.

“It’s a good sign first of all that more than 60 candidates now have completed the questionnaire – and even more encouraging is that those who have completed the questionnaire are overwhelmingly indicating that they support these transparency measures, I think for just about every question,” he said.

But nearly 100 candidates, including the two leading party candidates for governor, have not yet responded to the questionnaire.

Matthews said candidates are being encouraged to respond. The website will be updated as responses are received through Election Day, he said.

The questionnaire also asks if candidates support putting details of Nevada state government spending online for public review, if they support open meetings for public employee union negotiations and if they support subjecting the Legislature to the state open meeting law.

The final question asks legislative candidates if they would be willing to sponsor legislation on any of the issues.

Some candidates who have not yet responded have indicated support for at least some of the proposals in the questionnaire.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, has requested a bill draft to require a three-day waiting period before lawmakers can vote on bills.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, yesterday announced support for putting the state’s checkbook on line along with several other reforms, including a requirement for all candidates for public office to report every financial contribution, the amount and donor online within 72 hours of receipt.

“Today, we are putting a series of reforms before the public,” Oceguera said. “They are common sense and timely measures, and I will work for bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller has requested legislation that would create an online searchable database of candidate contribution and expenditure reports. He pushed for similar legislation in 2009.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who is running for the Washoe Senate 1 seat, said she supports transparency in government but is not responding to the survey because of her view that the NPRI has a clear political bias and a response would give the group undeserved credibility.

“I’m accountable to the voters, I’m not accountable to a conservative think tank,” she said. “It gives them a credibility that I don’t think they deserve. But I’m happy to respond directly to my constituents and certainly do support transparency in government.”

Asked if he is disappointed that neither Democrat Rory Reid nor Republican Brian Sandoval has yet responded, Matthews said it is the voters who should be concerned.

“Anytime you’ve got somebody who is seeking the highest office in the state, and you’ve got an issue like government transparency, which is so important especially in light of all the economic challenges we’re facing today, it’s important that they go on the record and tell voters where they stand,” he said.

The Sandoval campaign said today they will not be filling out the questionnaire. The Reid camp did not immediately respond to a question about whether they will fill it out.

Matthews said he expects that more candidates will respond as Election Day draws near.


Audio clips:

Andy Matthews of NPRI says transparency is important for the democratic process:

090810Matthews1 :11 with public money.”

Matthews says those responding so far strongly favor transparency issues:

090810Matthews2 :20 about every question.”

Matthews says voters should question those candidates who do not respond:

090810Matthews3 :20 where they stand.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie says she did not reply because group has conservative bias:

090810Leslie1 :22 conservative think tank.”

Leslie says she supports transparency, but answers to her constituents:

090810Leslie2 :24 transparency in government.”

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