Our View

Republicans have given Nicole Galloway a bat she can use in her bid for governor.

But they don't have to give her the pitch. So far, though, it looks as if they're warmed up and walking to the mound.

Galloway, a Democrat and the Missouri auditor, recently sent out a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson — the Republican candidate in 2020 — and to the lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer, challenging them to ban the use of self-destruct and burner apps that automatically destroy public records.

"Banning self-destructing messaging by public entities, officials and employees is another step to ensuring transparency, and is the best antidote to any perceived or actual government impropriety. It is not only a best practice, it is just good common sense," Galloway wrote in announcing the letter.

It was former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens who brought this issue to the state's attention when he and dozens of his staffers used or downloaded an app called Confide that erases text messages as soon as they are read and that disables screenshots on mobile devices when the app is open. Messages are not retained on the sender's or the recipient's devices, or on a server.

In short, there is no public record left by public officials discussing public business and spending public money, and the argument is being advanced that if there is no record, there can be no violation of the state's open records law. If allowed to stand, this would a loophole so large that it effectively guts Missouri's Sunshine Law.

It was later revealed that a top aide to Josh Hawley, the former Missouri attorney general who is now a U.S. senator, and a top aide to Eric Schmitt, the former state treasurer who is now attorney general, used similar technology.

The Republican-led Missouri House approved legislation this spring that would have banned the use of self-destruct apps, but it died in the Republican-led Missouri Senate.

That's what we mean when we say Republicans gave Galloway a bat to swing away in her campaign.

But by supporting efforts to ban the app, they would prevent her from hitting a home run with this issue. And they should sign on to her call to get this done when lawmakers meet in January because it's the right thing to do.

The letter last week followed one she sent out earlier this month to all local governments in the state encouraging them to also prohibit the use of self-destruct apps when conducting public business.

Galloway noted that banning these kinds of apps is consistent with guidelines approved by the State Records Commission that were adopted by a bipartisan vote.

"These (apps) allow for public business to be conducted in secret and prevent taxpayers from holding government accountable," Galloway wrote.

We call on all candidates in both parties and politicians at all levels to join Galloway in banning the use of these apps.

Otherwise, "Batter up!"

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