President Barack Obama will visit Nashville, Tenn. today to echo themes from his State of the Union address — expanding high-quality pre-kindergarten and raising the minimum wage so that people who work hard and and play by the rules can afford to live with dignity and raise a family.
With official White House visits, it’s customary for governors to spend some time with the president. But Bill Haslam’s office says the governor only has time to greet Air Force One. And that’s it.
The rest of Haslam’s day is top secret. From the Nashville Post:
His spokesman Dave Smith said the governor “has ECD meetings out of state,” but did not respond to a request late Wednesday seeking details about where the governor was going and with whom he was meeting.
Details about who the governor meets with have been kept hidden from reporters since the beginning of his term. Requests to review the governor’s calendar have been repeatedly rejected by his administration citing “deliberative process privilege.” Governors in other states have made their schedules available for public inspection.
It would be unremarkable if this were the first time Haslam claimed special privileges to cloak his office’s doings from the public, but it’s not.
Today’s snub to transparency is part of a much larger pattern of secrecy —
- secretive relationships with high-powered lobbyists
- preference for secret tax deals with big corporations
- hiding his tax returns
- executive order to hide his income
- hidden loans to business partners
- secret pay raises for his department chiefs
- secret political slush funds
The closed-door meetings with old business partners who suddenly win no-bid contracts, the constant special interest dealing and unprecedented secrecy have wholly undermine his credibility with anyone paying attention to his actions.
Transparency and accountability are linked hand in hand. Taxpayers cannot hold politicians accountable when they refuse to be open and transparent on basic issues. And Haslam has refused to be open and honest — even with something as simple as his schedule.
He won’t come clean about his secret relationships with lobbyists, and he still insists on hiding his income tax returns (probably because he pays a lower tax rate than working families in Tennessee).
With Haslam’s track record, it’s clear why Tennesseans don’t trust politicians or believe that they’ll put our families’ interests first.