Somehow, some way, this has to be a bad joke, right? Barack Obama made a big deal about creating the Most Transparent Administration Evah in the 2008 Hope and Change campaign, and after taking office appointed a transparency “czar,” which is in itself a contradiction in terms. Eighteen months later, Obama has eliminated the position:
This perfectly captures the Obama White House’s attitude toward disclosure. Sure, the administration publish the names of all White House visitors, but, as the New York Times reported a few weeks back, White House folks just meet their lobbyists at Caribou Coffee across the street. Sure, they restrict the work of ex-lobbyists in the administration, but lobbyists who de-list aren’t questioned.
And we’ve seen just a few of the e-mails former Google lobbyist, now Obama tech policy guru, Andrew McLaughlin traded with current Google lobbyists using his Gmail account, but who knows what else the White House whiz kids are doing to avoid the Presidential Records Act — Facebook messages? Twitter direct messages? …
The Sunlight Foundation is also concerned about the fact the White House no longer has anyone whose job is transparency, as Eisen’s job was. John Wonderlich, at SunglightFoundation.com, lists a few transparency promises on which the president hasn’t followed through, including earmark transparency, a single Web site (Ethics.gov) with all ethics and accountability information, and better lobbying disclosure, among others.
The White House wants to reassure everyone that the duties won’t disappear, however. They will transfer Norm Eisen’s duties as he leaves to become US Ambassador to the Czech Republic to … Obama’s chief counsel, Robert Bauer — because attorneys are all about full public disclosure of activities. Timothy Carney gives Washington Examiner readers a primer on Bauer’s commitment to openness and transparency:
On his blog, Bauer derided the notion “that politicians and parties are pictured as forever trying to get away with something,” saying this was an idea for which “there is a market, its product cheaply manufactured and cheaply sold.” In other words — we keep too close an eye on our leaders.
In August 2006 Bauer blogged, “disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned.” This is the man the White House has put in charge of making this the most open White House ever.
Most telling might have been Bauer’s statements about proposed regulations of 527 organizations: “If it’s not done with 527 activity as we have seen, it will be done in other ways,” he told the Senate rules committee.
“There are other directions, to be sure, that people are actively considering as we speak. Without tipping my hand or those of others who are professionally creative, the money will find an outlet.”
Not that this is much of a comedown. Let’s recall that Eisen played a key role in the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin after he tried to blow the whistle on a sweetheart settlement that rescued an Obama supporter from political doom. Eisen failed to provide the necessary notice to Congress and instead instigated a smear of Walpin as mentally deficient in order to cover the White House’s tracks. Terminating IGs, who are supposed to be independent, hardly upholds the concepts of transparency and accountability.
Instead, we get a partisan attack dog attorney as our new guarantor of transparency. Having a White House counsel regulating transparency would qualify as a scandal in the media for any other President besides Barack Obama, and farce in any other setting than this administration and Congress.
Reason gives a list of Obama’s failures on transparency.
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