The Money Game

One of the problems I kept running into when preparing stories for this site is the fact that Missouri's Department of Agriculture seems to have abysmal data systems. Every Sunshine Law request, no matter how small, exceeded whatever amount of money I had set as a cap for the request.

Now it would seem the same problem occurs elsewhere in state government. When asked about Lt. Governor Kinder's calendar, journalists were first told the entries were not available. Later, though, it was discovered that the entries were available, but the cost would be well over several thousand dollars in order to get the information.

I had turned in a Sunshine Law violation complaint to the Attorney General's office and was told by the person who responded that my main concern seemed to be not that the information wasn't available, but that the cost was too high. According to the AG office rep, high cost to access the information does not form a Sunshine Law violation. However, when the price tag is invariably high—too high for the average person—cost does form a barrier against transparency.

Either Missouri has the worst data systems in the country—in which case there's another first we can't take pride in—or cost is being used as a barrier to information.