By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Vice President Al Gore lauded former Gov. Ned McWherter’s commitment to transparency during a memorial service that was attended by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who’s been criticized over disclosure issues.
Gore joined former President Bill Clinton and others on Saturday to remember McWherter, a self-made millionaire and two-term Democratic governor who died last Monday of cancer at the age of 80.
Gore said in his speech that McWherter released not only his tax returns and income, but “things that people didn’t want him to release.”
“And (he) made sure that virtually every state record was open,” Gore said. “He had a commitment to absolute integrity.”
Haslam, a Republican, was heavily criticized by his Republican and Democratic opponents last year for refusing to disclose how much money he was paid from his family-owned truck stop business, Pilot Flying J.
Haslam said during the campaign that revealing his income from Pilot would reveal personal information about family members not running for office as well as proprietary information about the privately held company with annual revenues of about $20 billion.
His office had no comment Monday about Gore’s statements.
Haslam, who has stressed transparency and open government in the executive branch, made headlines in February when emails obtained by the AP revealed his aides carefully planned the media strategy for informing the public about a decision to scuttle financial disclosure requirements for the governor and his senior staff.
Haslam had steadfastly defended a move on his first day in office in January to toss out his predecessor’s requirement that top officials disclose the amounts of their outside earnings.
He has denied there was any attempt at gamesmanship, arguing that the disclosure issue was sufficiently hashed out during the governor’s race and the new policy shouldn’t come as a surprise.
By Lucas Johnson