- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

President Obama on Friday announced that if lobbyists want to offer his administration ideas for using the $787 billion in stimulus funds, their meetings will be publicized on Recovery.gov.

The president also detailed new directives outlining guidelines of acceptable ways to spend stimulus money in states and localities — and said projects that don’t create jobs won’t get the money.

“This plan cannot and will not be an excuse for waste and abuse,” Mr. Obama said in remarks to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Whenever a project comes up for review, we will ask a simple question: Does it advance the core mission of the Recovery Act? Does it jump-start job-creation? Does it lay the foundation for lasting prosperity?… With a plan of such size comes an obligation to be vigilant with every dime we spend.” Mr. Obama said the directives are “guidelines that will help ensure that we are proving ourselves worthy of the great trust the American people have placed in us.” He said that while he supports dog parks, funding for things like that is forbidden.

“That is not how we will jumpstart job creation and that is not how we will put our economy on a firmer footing for the future,” he said.

He offered an example of his own — saying a “long overdue” project to modernize the old electrical and heating systems in the White House East Wing requested from the stimulus plan will not be funded under the measure because it doesn’t meet the standards of creating jobs.

He said he hopes Congress funds it independently in the future.

The group applauded Mr. Obama’s announcement of the lobbying disclosures.

“Any lobbyists who want to talk with a member of my administration about a particular Recovery Act project will have to submit their thoughts in writing, and we will post it on the internet for all to see,” he said. “If any member of my administration does meet with a lobbyist about a Recovery Act project, every American will be able to go online and see what the meeting was about. These are unprecedented restrictions that will help ensure that lobbyists do not stand in the way of our recovery.” The White House did not allow reporters to hear the question-and- answer session of the event.

Casting the stimulus and his budget blueprint as “unprecedented steps,” the president repeated his aim to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, without mentioning a new Congressional Budget Office estimate that the deficit will reach $1.8 trillion this year.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said the administration has a plan to “actually call out” bad stimulus choices and “we intend to make sure the actual spirit of the law is what is followed.” The president said the U.S. Conference of Mayors has agreed to join the effort.

“There is little room for error here, especially in a time of crisis,” Mr. Obama said.