08/08/2013 04:31 pm ET

John Hickenlooper: Open Government 'Creates Problems'

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) raised eyebrows with a somewhat counterintuitive statement to TIME magazine about government transparency making it difficult for lawmakers to be effective at their jobs.

“We elect these people to make these difficult decisions, but now they are in the full light of video every time they make a decision,” Hickenlooper told TIME at the National Governors Association meeting in Milwaukee, Wis. last Friday. “We elected these people, let them go back into a room like they always did.”

Kelly Maher, executive director of conservative group Compass Colorado, went on the attack for the governor's remark, also referencing Hickenlooper's recent support for a ballot measure that would raise nearly $1 billion in new tax dollars to fund public schools -- a statement he made at a private function.

“Since Governor Hickenlooper announced his support for the billion dollar tax hike behind closed doors, it’s no surprise he advocates doing the public’s business in private,” Maher said via press statement. “Coloradans deserve better than leaders who think they can rule the state from smoke-filled rooms.”

Hickenlooper later clarified the statement to The Denver Post saying that he wasn't by any means suggesting that lawmakers should engage in "back room" political dealings, but rather that transparency in government, usually cited as a progressive shift in politics, has a downside -- it has given special-interest groups and lobbyists a greater influence in lawmaking -- and that can lead to gridlock as is currently seen in Congress.

"If we're all bemoaning why there is this lockdown and inability to get bills passed or to have government function in Washington, this is a part of it," Hickenlooper said. "I am not saying you go back into secrecy. I'm just pointing out this transparency creates problems. It's hard to argue that's not the case."

The Colorado governor also said that he was elaborating on ideas that Fareed Zakaria presented in a Washington Post op-ed from 2011. Zakaria details the swiftness of reaction that lawmakers now face when they make any decision in this era of smartphones and Twitter. Zakaria writes:

The political scientist James Thurber recalled watching lobbyists with their cellphones at a congressional hearing on the 1986 tax reforms. “They started dialing the instant anyone in the room even thought about changing a tax break. Their calls . . . brought a deluge of protest borne by phone, letter, and fax. There is no buffer allowing a Representative to think about what’s going on. In the old days you had a few months or weeks, at least a few days. Now you may have a few seconds before the wave hits.” To pass that landmark legislation, eliminating hundreds of tax deductions and loopholes, Dan Rostenkowski, then chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, had to insist on a return to closed hearings during the bill’s markup.

Hickenlooper is often cited as a potential 2016 democratic candidate for president and recently as a running mate for a a possible Hillary Clinton presidential run, but has long denied he has interest in seeking a higher office in the White House.

As governor, Hickenlooper has served during an incredibly historic legislative session in Colorado and signed into law several landmark measures in the state, including: same-sex civil unions, recreational marijuana legalization and a strict gun control package.

Hickenlooper has also previously made it onto The Washington Post's "10 Most Popular Governors" list and was named the country's third most popular sitting governor in the country in 2011 by Public Policy Polling.

Earlier this year, the governor's Chief Strategy Officer Alan Salazar, fueled presidential speculations in an interview with 5280 Magazine. In response to the question, "Will we ever see a President Hickenlooper?" Salazar gave a straightforward, "I hope so."



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