Transparency in government should not be limited only to officials.
Disclosure rules should also apply to everyone seeking special benefits from government, such as
contracts, permits, or grants. For one thing, without transparency
on both sides of every transaction, it is impossible for the public or officials to know if
there are any conflicts that particular officials need to deal with.
One popular way to get around transparency is the shell company. A
company can easily be set up so that its ownership is secret. This
is often done with development companies. The company has to have a
front man, at least an attorney, who appears at zoning board
meetings and the like. But it usually is not required to disclose
the names of its owners. Without the disclosure of these names, how
can anyone know whether officials, their family members, or
their business associates own a company involved in a matter before
them? And without disclosure, it is easy for an official to say she
didn't know her brother was an owner, if this fact comes out later.