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EDITORIAL: A pay-to-play White House

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finally, it is clear what President Obama meant when he said this would be the most "transparent administration in history." He wasn't saying that his White House would be open and accountable; he was saying that his administration didn't feel much need to come up with plausible lies, they'd be fine using the transparent kind.

In the months since Mr. Obama took office, his administration has showered the Democratic Party's key fundraisers with insider briefings from administration staffers, access to the president and top aides and all the social perks that only the White House can bestow. The president, who ran for office saying he wanted to clean up fundraising, is perfectly happy to wallow in the cash-for-access mud pit.

In reporting on exactly how the administration went down this corrupt path, reporters at The Washington Times asked the administration for White House visitor logs and guest lists for specific individuals such as campaign fundraisers and specific events such as cocktail parties and concerts. So far, the administration hasn't produced the information.

That pesky little fact didn't stop the deputy White House communications director from claiming in an e-mail, "For the first time in history, records detailing who visited the White House will be made public on a regular basis." Translation: At the moment, we are hiding our dirty laundry just like every other crooked politician, but at some point in the future, we will stop, and that will be "historic." Indeed, brazen and historic.

After The Times' report revealed the administration's "donor maintenance" program, reporters from other news organizations followed up at the daily White House press briefing, where White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tried to dodge questions by referring reporters to the Democratic National Committee. But who controls every aspect of what happens at the DNC? The White House. And when the DNC sells access to government officials, who employs those officials? The White House.

The administration's record for delivering more of the same when Mr. Obama promised "change" is unbroken. Mr. Obama promised that lobbyists would be locked out of top administration positions. That lasted just until the restriction became inconvenient. Mr. Obama promised to publish new laws on the Web for several days before he took action, so the public would have a chance to weigh in. The administration abandoned that promise, too.

Mr. Obama's abandoned promises exactly match those of his party's congressional leaders. After her party took control of Congress in the 2006 election, soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promised to create "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." Yet today, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Pelosi protect Democratic politicians who cheat on their taxes, thwart disclosure laws and trade earmarks for campaign donations.

Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill hide behind the claim that past presidents and Congresses have done the same thing. That's no defense. Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Pelosi promised a historic commitment to ethics and transparency. They should be judged by the standards they set for themselves, a test they have failed egregiously.