Obama WH “cavalier” towards abuses of ethics safeguards?
posted at 9:30 am on June 11, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Barack Obama came to power on a promise to change the way Washington worked and to make his White House “the most transparent ever.” The Daily Caller reports today that instead of adhering to new standards of ethical behavior, the Obama White House has trouble even measuring up to the old standards. Their technology office has demanded arguably-illegal discounts from vendors, for example:
Two sources say a top White House technology official, Chief Information Officer Brook Colangelo, routinely asked technology vendors for special deals based on his position as a public official.
“I heard the CIO talking to various technology vendors, saying … like, ‘You should give this to us for free because we’re the White House.’ And he actually said that to people,” one source said. A second source said Colangelo continued the practice even after having been confronted about its appropriateness.
Asking for discounts as a White House political official violates ethical rules and potentially federal law, experts say.
“You’re asking me a hypothetical because I’m not endorsing any facts here,” said Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, but “I can’t imagine a circumstance where a public official based on the fact that the person is a public official who asks a commercial business for a discount, I can’t imagine how that’s ethical under ethical rules in the White House that I know of, and it might even be worse.”
Remember how Obama pledged to keep lobbyists out of the administration? That promise got broken in the first days of his administration, with dozens of “waivers” of the no-lobbyist rule flying around the White House. However, Obama sternly insisted that any former lobbyists would have an impermeable firewall keeping them from engaging with their former employers for their benefit. That impermeable firewall must be past its expiration date:
For instance, e-mails recently released by the White House show Andrew McLaughlin — a former Google lobbyist and now deputy chief technology official for the administration — e-mailing his former employer from his personal gmail account on policy matters.
The FTC is an independent agency supposedly immune from White House meddling. While it’s unknown what was said at the meeting, Burr’s request for the meeting noted the “worrisome implications” of stricter privacy controls on innovation and said “it seems important for the FTC to have administration input on this.”
The issue is especially concerning to privacy activists like Consumer Watchdog who fault Google for its privacy policies.
In other instances, McLaughlin coordinated public relations strategy with Google employees.
It turns out that McLaughlin sent “numerous” e-mails from his personal account while at work for the White House. He managed to bypass the White House firewall by using his cell phone to send the e-mails. What did the Obama administration do when it discovered McLaughlin’s activities? He received a “reprimand” for “inadvertently” bypassing the lobbying and e-mail restrictions.
Remember how Karl Rove’s personal e-mail account became a national news story? Democrats howled that Rove was secretly plotting political strategies without any of the oversight required by law for people with White House positions. Suddenly, bypassing the Records Act is the cool thing to do — and the Daily Caller reports that everyone is doing it now:
The source who worked in the White House for approximately the first six months of the administration said the use of personal iPhones, Blackberries and other smart phones is ubiquitous in the White House.
“A lot of the political staff have two Blackberries. One that’s issued by the government and then their other Blackberry. Which they’re using their personal Blackberry while they’re in the office to talk to other people, probably about official business,” the source said.
Are they using their iPhones for official business? “You would think so,” the source said. An “example would be somebody in the political staff texts their counterpart over at the [Democratic National Committee (DNC)] and says, ‘Hey what should we do about this?’ and the person at the DNC says, ‘Well, here’s what we’re doing.’ That’s, obviously, the worst case scenario where you’ve got the actual sort of political collusion which is strictly prohibited by the Hatch Act and then also the violation of the records act at the same time.
Opacity. It’s the new transparency. Or, in other words, beware of Chicago Machine pols bearing Hope and Change.