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Obama to air interest-group talks

- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 6, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team will publicize any official meetings that staffers have with outside interest groups and will post online any policy documents the groups present during those meetings, according to rules put in place Friday.

"Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the transition and the administration, both orally and in writing. We want to ensure that we give the American people a seat at the table and that we receive the benefit of their feedback," transition chief John Podesta wrote in a memo to his staff, obtained by The Washington Times.

The rules apply to "official meetings," which Mr. Podesta defined as those in which at least three of the participants are from outside organizations. Any written document those in attendance present to the transition team also will be posted on the Web site www.Change .gov.

Mr. Podesta said the transition staff should consider the rules "a floor, not a ceiling," and consider posting documents even from meetings that don't meet the standard of at least three outside participants.

Mr. Obama has vowed to run an open transition process and to allow more sunlight on the way his administration operates once he takes office. During the Democratic primaries he contrasted that with the way Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his then-rival and now his nominee to be secretary of state, ran her health care task force when her husband was president.

"That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are," Mr. Obama said in one of their debates.

"If the drug companies or a member of Congress who's carrying water for the drug companies wants to argue that we should not negotiate for the cheapest available price on drugs, then I want them to make that argument in front of the American people," he said.

Democrats criticized the way Vice President Dick Cheney led a task force to craft energy policy for President Bush, arguing that his efforts at secrecy mimicked Mrs. Clinton's health care efforts.

Mr. Podesta said transition staffers will alert attendees at any official meetings that any documents they present will be posted online.

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