Obama Transparency Fail: Offsite meetings for the purpose of circumventing the Presidential Records Act 

It's an understandable mistake, really. Probably a slip of the tongue.

President Obama promised "transparency" in his administration's dealings with lobbyists. What he meant to say was "invisibility."

The latest: more evidence that the White House goes out of its way to make sure lobbyists and other special interests don't end up in the White House Visitor Log.

Chris Frates at Politico has the story of meetings pushed to "row houses just off Lafayette Square."

[Lobbyists]  say the White House is generally happy to meet with them and their clients once or twice, but get leery when an issue requires multiple visits and begin pushing for phone calls or meetings outside the White House’s gates.

“Without question, I think that there’s a lot of concern about being seen meeting with the same lobbyists or particular lobbyists over and over again,” said one business lobbyist, who has been to Jackson Place meetings.

If this sounds familiar, it's because this story corroborates a New York Times story from last year about White House officials holding hundreds of meetings at a Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House. That story included the detail of White House officials using non-government email accounts with lobbyists in order to avoid being subject to the Presidential Records Act.

The list of Obama administration failures on transparency is long. Here's a sample:

  • Obama's Housing and Urban Development Department demanded confidentiality orders from lobbyists with which it was meeting.
  • A telecom advisor Obama's transition team did not disclose, was pushing policy that helped his client.
  • The State Department has used flimsy reasons to reject a FOIA request over a former pipeline lobbyist now working on pipeline issues for State.
  • The stimulus website didn't meet standards for transparency, according to the GAO.
  • Total failure to post non-emergency legislation online for five days before signing -- beginning in the first few days.
  • When Obama sent his Transparency Czar to the Czech Republic, he never replaced him, giving his duties to a partisan ex-lobbyist who believes "disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned."

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Timothy P. Carney

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