Monday, July 02, 2007

Candidates asked to back science and open gov't

Gov. Bill Richardson, presidential candidate

WASHINGTON -- An important question to Arizona and the west: will America's next President stop scientific manipulation and whistleblower retaliation?

Each of the declared presidential candidates is being asked whether he or she will adhere to principles of open government if elected. Developed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the "Public Service Pledge" calls upon candidates to commit to -

· Conduct the people's business in the open and facilitate oversight by keeping vital documents in the public domain;

· Protect scientists who report inconvenient truths and remove from office those who manipulate public agency science for political ends; and

· Support public servants who tell the truth and exhibit zero tolerance for appointees who retaliate or condone retaliation against whistleblowers.

Joining PEER in putting candidates on the record is a committee of prominent Americans, called the Leadership Council. This Council features well-known political activists such as Robert Kennedy, Jr., former U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-CA) and commentator Jim Hightower, as well as activist/entertainers such as Al Franken and Ed Begley, Jr. In addition, the Council includes notable public servants who have experienced retaliation for their candor, such as federal climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, ex- FBI agent Colleen Rowley and former U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers.

One of the legacies of the Bush administration has been an unprecedented level of suppression and manipulation of science, particularly on environmental issues, for political reasons. At the same time, legal protections for, and official attitudes toward, federal whistleblowers has hit a new low. The combination has increasingly forced federal public servants into conflict between their consciences and their careers.

"Which candidates will publicly vow to run a transparent administration where honesty is no longer a firing offense?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is absolutely vital to the quality of our democracy that the gross informational chicanery seen during the past six years comes to an end."

PEER has also created a website so that voters can easily contact the campaign of their favorite (or not so favorite) candidate and ask him or her to sign the Public Service Pledge. PEER will post the candidate replies. As a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, PEER cannot endorse or oppose any candidate for electoral office but can inform the public of candidate positions on issues.

"This pledge is one campaign promise that everyone has a stake in ensuring is not broken," Ruch added.

- adapted from PEER

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