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British Tory leader lauds Matt Blunt for 'transparency' portal

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 4, 2009 - Former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt may have been embattled at home, but he's won praise from British Tory Party leader David Cameron for creating the Missouri Accountability Portal that allows the public to track state spending online.

Such overseas notice won Blunt cheers at the Millennium Hotel downtown, during Wednesday night's opening event for the two-day Conservative Heartland Leadership Conference.

Blunt was participating in a roundtable discussion with Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn, and moderated by Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.

The topic: The rise of "transparency'' as an issue in government and politics.

Norquist contended that the pro-transparency movement is expanding rapidly and could be a boon for conservatives who embrace it. Norquist said that big-spending Democrats talk about transparency, but don't really want to do it.

(Norquist also jabbed at certain Republicans, when he observed sarcastically that " 'President Cheney' thought everything should be a state secret...")

During the forum, Blunt was asked to lay out his actions surrounding the 2007 creation of the Accountability Portal. He said it cost no extra money, and attracted 16 million page views during its first year. Blunt contended that the portal prompted state bureaucrats to be more careful about their spending of state dollars, since it would end up online for the public to see.

Norquist then quoted from Tory leader Cameron's recent speech, in which the leader unveiled his party's "People's Right to Know" plan, which Cameron called "a democratic check on wasteful spending..."

"If you want to see how it could work, look at the Missouri Accountability Portal,'' Cameron continued. "It will show you why transparency is such a powerful tool in controlling public spending...."

The Heartland roundtable focused on transparency in spending, and not on other related issues, such Missouri's open-records and record-retention laws, which ended up embroiling Blunt and several staff members in a long-running legal battle with critics who contended they were failing to preserve and make public certain records.

But Blunt did shift Wednesday night's discussion a bit, during the question-answer session, when he fired a few witty jabs at the Democrats now controlling Washington.

In a phrase that's likely to be widely used, Blunt said the Obama administration favored "a command-and-control economy" that was costly -- and anything but transparent.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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