A new bill pending in the Senate, S-2267, directs the State Lottery Commission to amend its regulations so that the identities of lottery winners are not accessible under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). The bill offers the winners of the lottery lifetime anonymity.
In 2013, former Governor Christie vetoed a similar bill that
would have allowed lottery winners to remain anonymous for one year because he
claimed it “could
undermine the transparency that provides taxpayers confidence in the integrity
of the Lottery and its games.” Similar bills have recently failed in other
states, with Governor Cuomo recently vetoing
such a bill in New York.
S-2267 raises major concerns. While his track record on transparency is notoriously pretty bad, on this issue Governor Christie was right.
Without disclosure of the name of the winner(s), what combats
What will prevent lottery insiders from rigging the game? (It
What will prevent the person who purchased tickets for the office pool from collecting the cash anonymously and quietly resigning without telling co-workers that the office pool tickets won? (Similar things have happened!)
What will give lottery ticket purchasers confidence that the
money was really distributed to a legitimate winner and that the Commission
didn’t just make up a fake winner and pocket all the profits?
It’s true that “lottery fame” can be a hassle and that many
winners describe winning as both the best and worst thing to happen to them.
But, transparency is important. It guards against corruption and reassures
lottery ticket purchasers that the money was properly awarded to a legitimate
winner in a fair game.
Those who do not want the fame that comes from winning millions
and millions of dollars should opt out of playing the game. Otherwise, when you
buy a lottery ticket, you do so with the understanding that the public has a
right to know who the lucky winner is.
This week is Sunshine Week, a week dedicated to promoting openness in government! In honor of Sunshine Week, we’re sharing the following resources which will help you shine a light on the government.
CJ Griffin will give an OPRA training in Nutley (Essex County) on March 12. Come meet CJ and learn about how you can use the Open Public Records Act to hold your government accountable.
New Jersey Resources:
New Jersey Transparency Center/YourMoney.NJ.Gov: This website is operated by the State of New Jersey and provides volume of data about State agencies and authorities. Want to know how much a certain state employee earns? You can look it up here, along it budgets, purchasing records, pension records, and more.
OPRAMachine.com: You can use this website to file directly to State, County, and local government agencies. The request will be posted on OPRA Machine, as well the agency’s response to your request. It is a great resource for tracking your requests and to help others see the data without having to file their own requests. If you want to file records requests in other states or with the federal government, you might want to check out a similar resource, MuckRock.
NJ Open Government Blog: This blog is operated by John Paff, a well-known transparency and open government advocate in New Jersey. Mr. Paff frequently blogs about recent OPRA lawsuits and judicial opinions. You might also find his other blog, NJ Civil Settlements, helpful. There, he posts about settlement agreements that government agencies have entered into, often resulting in a significant expenditure of tax dollars.
The Force Report: Want to know how many times the police officers in your town used physical force against another person and whether there were any racial disparities in the use of force? This database by NJ.com provides several years of data and is easy to navigate.
Protecting the Shield: Reporters from the Asbury Park Press spent two years working on this brilliant investigative series “to expose the deadly price the public pays when known bad cops remain on the streets.”
New Jersey Death Index: We helped Reclaim the Records gain access to New Jersey’s death index and they created this amazing free searchable database!