Editorial: Mar-a-Lago probe highlights need for government transparency

Following the Aug. 8 search by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald Trump, transparency on the part of government operations has been called into question. 

The saga has since continued through a myriad of legal actions designed to stall the Department of Justice’s evaluation and investigation of documents seized from the property. 

Such has resulted in the appointment of a special master for the case, barring the Justice Department from using any seized documents until they are reviewed. From the nature of the classified documents, this potentially prevents the documents from being revealed publicly. The issue that remains is how our organizations provide information accurately and in a timely manner.  

Other complications related to a lack of transparency from the Trump legal team have muddied the process and slowed a final determination from federal authorities as to the extent of any potential crime.

Instances like this contribute to uncertainty among the public as well as to the stability of our democratic institutions and order. By providing the public with the proper information, individuals can try to maintain faith in institutions and make informed decisions.

A 2022 Gallup Poll found that confidence in all three branches of government has dropped in the past year. The lack of faith comes from a combination of factors including misinformation, lack of information and various issues across the nation such as inflation, COVID-19 and social issues.

The instance of former President Trump’s hesitancy to return confidential documents belonging to the U.S. government and that government’s hesitancy to take corrective action continue to contribute to such erosion in trust.

As recently as this weekend, the National Archives announced that it still has yet to receive the entirety of missing government records taken by Trump upon his departure from office.

As the process has unfolded over the last two months, the need for sustained and consistent government transparency has been thrust into the national spotlight. Now more than ever, it’s important for our local and national governments to display integrity.

All levels of government, including local entities and administrations at GVSU and surrounding areas, need to be open with individuals who are subject to the consequences of the actions from authorities.

This is just as important at a lower level as it is at a national level. On college campuses, it’s important for leaders like those at GVSU to be open with community members regarding their operations to instill confidence and trust in university institutions among students and faculty.

Transparency is necessary in the digital age where speculation runs rampant and the barrier for entry of information spread is low. It helps foster open communication and keeps officials accountable to their constituents. 

Open communication helps to create inclusivity for those who feel their voices aren’t heard enough while also creating the opportunity for those that are underrepresented to express their needs.

It’s important to hold people in power accountable for their actions. Having the information accessible makes it harder for those in authoritative positions to hide any potential wrongdoings that endanger the public and betray our trust.