I have been a longtime supporter of transparency measures designed to make the government more accountable to the people it is meant to serve. As Texas Attorney General, I worked to make our state government more open and responsive to the public. Since being elected to the Senate, I’ve continued this work at the national level. In recent years, I’ve authored bipartisan legislation to reform and strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and promote greater transparency throughout the government.
With this in mind, there was some reason for optimism when President Obama, upon taking office, promised “an unprecedented level of openness.” But much to my disappointment and to the detriment of his legacy, his promise has been entirely fictitious.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Just listen to Katherine Meyer, a Washington lawyer who has filed FOIA cases under six presidential administrations. “This administration is the worst on FOIA issues,” Meyer told Politico last year. “The worst. There’s just no question about it.”
And the problem extends beyond FOIA requests. Whether it’s selling guns to Mexican drug cartels, the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, or targeting Americans with drones, getting answers from this administration has been an endless challenge.
We need to recognize that transparency isn’t just important for the sake of gathering information. It is also a proactive force for good governance. Transparency begets accountability, and when an atmosphere of accountability pervades, public servants are more responsive to the trust their countrymen have placed in them. Through this, we can secure a better government. President Obama would be wise to recognize this as he embarks on his second term.
Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is the minority whip in the U.S. Senate.