G ov. Rick Perry's habit of carrying a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun while jogging would be useful information to anyone contemplating doing him harm.
Perry hasn't been shy about letting the world know this important detail.
The spending of tax money on his travel security detail has been judged an entirely different matter — by Perry, by the Department of Public Safety, by the Texas Supreme Court and, finally earlier this month, by the lower-court judge whose initial ruling in favor of the people's right to know was overturned.
"It's a sad, sad world where we have to do this," District Judge Scott Jenkins said, "and it leads to less transparency."
Less transparency about how public money is spent, for sure. But Texans can see through the make-believe risk posed by travel expense records after the travelers have arrived home safely. The only real risk posed by this information is its potential for embarrassing Perry.
What threat, other than the taxpayers' outrage, was posed by the previous disclosure of several-years-old expenditures for scuba gear and golf cart rentals during a trip by Perry to the Bahamas?
Jenkins ruled in 2008 that this type of information is public and should be disclosed in response to requests made under the Texas Public Information Act. Three large newspapers had sued in 2007 when the DPS sought to withhold travel security expense information.
In July, the Supreme Court recognized the right to conceal "information that substantially threatens physical harm" as an "other law" exception to the public's right to the information.
The high court largely granted the DPS the benefit of the doubt in determining substantial threats. Before rendering the latest ruling, Jenkins reviewed some of the travel records and said he could see patterns that could be useful in a plot to harm the governor. We commend his fertile imagination.
"It's a sad day when every (public information) requester is being treated like Osama bin Laden," William Christian, attorney for the newspapers, told the judge.
More like a sad year and a half. The Legislature last year passed a law that makes the governor's travel security financial records public after 18 months. A lot can happen in 18 months.
For example, the next session of the Legislature will conclude less than 18 months from now. Perry has asked legislators to sign a Texas Budget Compact, an austerity measure. Shouldn't the legislators and the public have a full picture of whether Perry practices what he preaches before making up their minds?