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Montana Transparency Project helps shine a light on elected officials

The Montana Constitution guarantees your right to know what our elected officials are doing
Montana Transparency Project
Posted at 12:52 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 14:52:38-05

MISSOULA — This is National News Literacy Week, when our parent company, E.W. Scripps, partners with the News Literacy Project to ensure the public has the skills to be informed and participate in a democracy.

The Montana Constitution guarantees your right to know what our elected officials are doing. But knowing how to access that information isn’t always that clear-cut.

That is why the new Montana Transparency Project is here to help.

“The five of us are a group of young Montanans who really love our state Constitution and want to protect the promise of the Montana Constitution for our generation and for future generations,” explained project member Addie Slanger.

That promise is access to what our elected officials are doing, what they’ve done, how they voted, and how they’ve spent taxpayer dollars — from local regulatory boards to the Governor’s office.

It's your constitutional right to know.

“I would argue it is just a fundamental right of Montana that not only can help demystify government agencies, but it can also encourage civic engagement and when we are engaging directly with our local governments and our state government,” Slanger said. “I think that just makes for a happier and healthier government society in Montana. “

But even with that right in hand, who do you ask? And how do you do it? How long does it take to get answers?

The Montana Transparency Project that launched in early January is a first step to helping you find the information because knowing where to start isn’t always clear.

“In Montana, we have a right to request information from our government, but it can be really hard to figure out. Who do I ask this question to? What agency has this information? What do I expect in this process,” Montana Transparency Project President Jacob Linfesty noted. “And these are the kinds of questions that we’re hoping to answer for Montana who are entering this process for the first time.”

Slanger — a first year law student at the University of Montana — is the former editor and chief of the school newspaper, the Kaimen.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve already had a dozen people reach out who we’ve been able to work with and learn with as we begin this initiative,” Slanger told MTN News. It was rewarding for us to know that this is a service that people are seeking. This is something that’s a need in Montana that we can actively fill.”

It’s a need that helps shine a light on what elected officials are doing, according to Linfesty.

“The right to know is our way as Montanans to figure out how our government works. Why was this decision made? Why was the money spent this way? Why didn’t the government do this?” “Those are all questions that we can ask, and we should be able to get documents that should be able to answer those questions and I think that can increase our trust in state government."

Visit to learn more about the Montana Transparency Project.