Monday, August 27, 2007


This man was a champ!

I was stunned this morning to learn of the death of Bob Johnson, a founder of and the driving force behind New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

I knew Bob as a voice on the phone years before I met him. He's the one a reporter would call whenever some tin-horn bureaucrat tried to keep public information from the public.

Sometimes FOG would instigate a lawsuit if some agency wouldn't budge. Whatever the case, Bob was always good for a quote, a concise explanation why openness not only is a good idea, in most cases, it's the law.

When I began covering the Capitol in late 2000, I got to know Bob better. He was there nearly every day during a legislative session, usually on his never-ending crusade to convince lawmakers to put an end to "the last bastion of secrecy," closed conference committees -- — panels made up of members of both houses to iron out differences in bills that have passed both chambers.

Bob would always look pained when senators made their ridiculous arguments against open conference committees. ("We can't open conference committees until the governor opens all his meetings." "How come the press wants open conference committees when newspapers don't open their editorial meetings?") And it was always a kick in the teeth for Bob when the foxes in the Senate inevitably would vote against installing a new light in the hen house.

Of course Bob didn't see it that way. He would say -- quite rightfully -- that it a vote against openness was a blow to democracy, not just an affront to him.

Last week I attended a ceremony in which the state treasurer named a conference room after the late radio reporter Bob Barth. (For my column on that, CLICK HERE and scroll down). That gives me an idea.

a) Open the damned conference committees!

b) Designate a room in the Capitol "The Robert H. "Bob" Johnson Conference Committee Meeting Room."

Johnson, of course had a long career before FOG. A couple of years ago I wrote about his experiences during Watergate. (CLICK HERE and scroll down.)

Bob, you will be missed!

UPDATE: Thanks to a friendly reader who alerted me to some typos. That's always appreciated. They've been fixed.

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