This article was authored and contributed to Breitbart Texas by Susan Combs.
Despite her team’s best attempts to bury the story of Hillary Clinton’s bizarre email deception blunder, inquiring minds still want to know what was going on in that server closet at the Clinton residence while Hillary was serving as Secretary of State. It is a situation that drives open government advocates like me up a wall. Fortunately, open government advocates are everywhere, including South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin.
I had the privilege of co-leading a panel discussion at the SXSW conference with Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce. With my background in state government, managing reams of information for our state’s economy and budget, and his experience supervising the Census Bureau, we were able to compare perspectives on the challenge of bridging the data gap between all levels of government.
Our starting point was the shared belief that government, by and for the people, funded by their tax dollars, must be rooted in transparency. Without the light of accountability, bad things tend to happen. So we discussed the need to break down the silos that take shape around sources and stores of information. Silos basically keep bodies of information in separate slots, making cross-government analysis difficult.
When Johannes Gutenberg created the movable type printing press in 1450, the ensuing “sharing of data” literally transformed the world. Given the effort it took to produce a single page on his invention, I suspect his mind would be blown by how easily information can be recorded and transferred in 2015. Unfortunately, thanks to the sheer volume of today’s data, making information public is only the first step. Making it usable is the next.
As our panel and audience discussed the risk of drowning in a flood of complex data, the questions from the audience universally raised the need for more openness and transparency. And we should be letting the sunshine in, as the song says.
So this makes the strange case of Hillary Clinton’s hidden and missing emails all the more troubling. By the time she took office as Secretary of State in 2009, she had already set up a private server in her home, supposedly out of convenience: an absurd assertion for a person frequently photographed using state-of-the-art smartphones. Taking data that was the rightful property of U.S. taxpayers and stashing it in her home server closet was a deliberate attempt to deceive the American people and surely not fulfilling the intent of her oath of office.
In 2007, I was sworn in as Comptroller of the State of Texas where I was in charge of huge amounts of information in my role as tax collector, chief financial officer, and bookkeeper of the state. I believed from day one that I had an obligation to share all of that information with the public. On my fourth day on the job, I posted on the internet every single agency expense so the public could hold us accountable. Within six months, we had posted all expenditures of the entire state across all agencies. Two years later, we had expanded our public information available by posting revenue streams, purchasing details, and a myriad of other large streams of data. We won national recognition for that effort.
It was a mountain of information, but it did not exactly take rocket science to make it available. It just took a lot of hard work by public servants committed to the public good. The same year we completed that massive effort, Hillary hit the switch on her secret email server and took office as Secretary of State.
In light of the available technology and the overriding responsibility to inform the public, why would Hillary hide what should not be hidden? With the exception of legitimately classified information, any other reason is offensive, dangerous and a troubling foreshadowing of how she would most likely serve this nation as its commander in chief. That level of contempt for her obligation is scary, because in essence she is saying she does not have to follow the rules.
If someone really wants to make good use of a today’s technology, it would be to take their smartphone and stand behind her when she takes her next oath of office – and tweet the photo of her crossing her fingers.
Susan Combs has had a distinguished career in public service as a Member of the Texas House of Representatives, Texas’ first woman Agriculture Commissioner, and serving two terms as Texas Comptroller and Treasurer. After two decades of service, Susan remains a champion of sound, conservative economic principles.