The first rule of the Obama administration's meeting with lobbyists: You don't talk about the Obama administration's meetings with lobbyists 

The Obama administration has a reputation for "transparency," but that's almost entirely because Obama talks a lot about how transparent his administration is. When it comes to actually being transparent, it's a different story.

The latest: lobbyists meeting with the Department of Housing and Urban Development are being required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Here's part:

“I will not, without the written permission of HUD, reveal, divulge or publicize any information covered under this agreement or disseminate any oral, written, or electronic information obtained under this collaboration,”

Chris Frates, a good lobbying reporter at Politico, has the story, which ends with this:

Judy Kennedy, president of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, said in her three decades of Washington experience she has only seen a nondisclosure agreement used during a negotiations over writing new regulations.

“I can’t believe that (HUD) Secretary (Shaun) Donovan would think it’s a smart move to say that you can’t stay unless you sign this agreement,” she said, adding that she was not part of the working group. “I can’t believe that he would authorize a gag order.”

Some previous transparency disclosures, off the top of my head:

  • 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."
  • Administration officials circumvented the Presidential Records Act by holding off-site meetings with lobbyists, and they use personal emails that are not covered by PRA.

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Timothy P. Carney

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