by Peter Freyne
And, yes, that’s the same Chris Graff who was Vermont’s AP bureau chief one year ago when Mr. Curley, a former president and publisher of USA Today, fired him because he distributed St. Patrick’s “Sunshine Week” column to subscribers of the Vermont Associated Press wire.
In response to a "Freyne Land" request, Leahy's Capitol Hill office provided a copy of the brief exchange between Pat and Tom over events of one year ago that occurred Wednesday morning in Leahy's Judiciary Committee. The topic?
"Open Government: Reinvigorating the Freedom of Information Act."
LEAHY: "Mr. Curley, about a year ago, during Sunshine Week, I wrote an op-ed piece, I don’t know if you had a chance to read it or not, on FOIA. Would you agree or disagree with a conclusion I reached that in the last six years it has been more and more difficult under FOIA?"
CURLEY: "I . . . absolutely, and there are many facts to support that, sir."
LEAHY: "Thank you. I’ve been asked to give you a copy of a book written by a former AP reporter. I won’t elaborate further on it, but you may want to glance at it, from Vermont. If you want to add a book review for the record, feel free."
CURLEY: "All news is local and understood."
LEAHY: "Well, you know it’s especially important in Vermont where you are, where the Associated Press, not only in Vermont but in many states, has become the overriding wire service. And we have to rely on you.
"But I also, and I’ll close with this, I’ve said over and over again, we, we Americans, are not here to serve the government. It’s the other way around; the government’s here to serve us. And the government, no matter what administration it is, will always tell you everything they’re doing that they’re proud of. I want to make sure we know those things where they make mistakes. And so we can correct them. Not so we can play ‘gotcha,’ but so we can correct them. And I think FOIA can be one of the greatest tools Americans have, but it can be awful if we don’t use it."
Here’s how St. Patrick ended his 2006 Sunshine Week column - the one that got Chris Graff sacked:
“Sunshine Week invites an inventory check on tools like the Freedom of Information Act that make real the public's right to know. Attacks on these tools only erode that right. A free, open and accountable democracy is what our forefathers fought and died for, and it is the duty of each new generation to protect this vital heritage and inheritance.”
Yes, indeed, and don't ever forget it!