Letters to the Editor

Government: Privacy beats papers’ concerns

Would you want to see your name in the paper as you try to rebuild your life in the wake of domestic violence? What if your child was a victim of sexual abuse? Would you demand your privacy?

As a legislator, I receive hundreds of letters each year from people in our area. Most are from people sharing their opinions about issues before the Legislature. But many people turn to me seeking help from a state agency during the darkest days of their lives. I am proud to act as an advocate for those who haven’t received the services they need to recover from abusive relationships, child custody cases or child protection cases. People place their trust in me.

While I would fight to the last to protect these people’s privacy, you may be surprised to learn that correspondence to my office is not confidential. In fact, anyone could file a public disclosure request for correspondence, and the courts would force me to open all my files. The same is true for some information law enforcement agencies collect from victims of sex offenders.

My colleagues and I recently voted, unanimously, I might add, to shield our constituents’ correspondence and information about victims of sexual abuse from non-targeted public disclosure requests. Newspaper editorials from around the state have called this a loophole that protects lawmakers and sexual offenders, when in fact this measure was designed to defend the privacy of innocent people in vulnerable situations.

All of my records as a legislator and a candidate for office will always be available to the public: bills I introduce, speeches I make, votes I cast, all my political contributions and expenditures. I would never vote to restrict the public’s access to these important records.

In the wake of intense pressure from some news outlets, this protection for our constituents has died a quick death. We must find another way to ensure that people can still communicate the most painful truths in their lives to their elected officials and law enforcement agencies.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen

Camano Island

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