Gov. Neil Abercrombie has caught a lot of flak lately for his stubborn decision not to release the names of judicial candidates.

Critics say that he should release the names because former Gov. Linda Lingle did so and because former Gov. Ben Cayetano released the names after making his appointments.

It’s about a transparent government, they argue, perhaps assuming that a liberal Democrat like Abercrombie would share their views.

(Nonsense, says the governor. He says it’s about protecting the identities of candidates who might not otherwise seek a judicial position.)

Similar gripes about lack of transparency have been made about Abercrombie’s refusal to explain what exactly happened with his first nominees to run the Health Department and the 2nd Circuit Court, both of whom withdrew, and the way he hired his Cabinet.

His administration has also thus far declined to honor Civil Beat’s request for the applications of his nine Board of Education appointments.

“We want to make sure this confirmation process goes through,” administration spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz told Civil Beat reporter Katherine Poythress Tuesday. “There’s nothing there to hide, but we don’t want to put any more information out that hasn’t already been put out.”

But just how much of an advocate for transparency should voters have expected Neil Abercrombie to be? Based on Civil Beat’s research of his key public pronouncements while running for governor and since his election, not much.

Lack of Transparency Everywhere

The word “transparent” is not to be found in the following key documents:

Inaugural Address

State of the State Address

Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

Nor does the word “transparent” appear in press releases where one might expect to find it:

• Abercrombie Announces Transition Plan, Nov. 4

• Governor Abercrombie Forwards Budget; Calls for Collaboration During Difficult Economic Times, Dec. 20

• Governor Signs Law To Bring More Accountability In Public Education, March 14

• Office of Information Practices Director Selected, April 1

It is possible Abercrombie used the word “transparent” or “transparency” during his campaign, which officially began in early March of 2010, and in the days immediately following the general election.

But we could not find those words in these relevant press releases and website postings from that time period:

About Neil Abercrombie

Congressional Accomplishments

• A Governor’s Responsibility, April 13

• I Am Ready to Lead and Serve, Nov. 1

• Election Night Victory Speech, Nov. 2

• We Are One Hawaii, Nov. 3

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser didn’t mention the words “transparent” and “transparency” when it endorsed Abercrombie for governor.

And, as a reporter who covered the entire gubernatorial campaign, watched or listened to every political debate and forum, who watched and read as many advertisements as possible, I don’t remember hearing Abercrombie talk much about transparency. It certainly wasn’t a major campaign theme.

Civil Beat even Googled the words “Neil Abercrombie” and “transparency” and, amazingly, came up with 112,000 results. But the first 30 were mostly links to criticism of Abercrombie’s lack of transparency.

The Google search did lead us to a site called Source Watch, published by the Center for Media and Democracy.

The section on Abercrombie lists a single item under his record for transparency: He cosponsored H.R. 1312 — the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2005 — on July 28, 2005.

But in 2007 Abercrombie was the only Democrat in the U.S. House to vote against a shield law bill that would have protected the confidentiality of reporters’ sources in most federal court cases.

Transparency At Last!

The only place Civil Beat did find references to transparency is in Abercrombie’s A New Day in Hawaii: A Comprehensive Plan.

That’s encouraging, because the New Day plan is Abercrombie’s blueprint for fixing the aina.

(Note: Civil Beat searched the version of the New Day plan on the Abercrombie campaign site because the version on the governor’s website could not easily be searched using a text search.)

But “transparency” only turns up a handful of times in the 43-page plan, and even then the references are vague and unsupported:

Small businesses need a more business-friendly regulatory environment, more training and education, a fair and transparent procurement system, and more help marketing for export and establishing local markets.

There must also be transparency in government so people know that their economic interests are being represented, not just the interests of a powerful few.

Hawaii will seek to maximize federal resources to provide for raising academic standards and redesigning curricula, implementing transparent assessment and accountability systems, delivering targeted teacher support, and prioritizing investment in school innovation.

Hawaii was once a leader in mental health services. It begins with transparent, open, and accountable leadership.

These few uses of the T-word do not seem to amount to evidence that Neil Abercrombie is a spokesman for the cause. That much seems quite transparent.

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