- Obama downplays IRS scandal, blames Obamacare rollout on ‘outdated’ agencies
- Pregnancies decline overall, up among older women
- Pentagon plans to destroy Syrian chemical arms on ship at sea
- Paris Metro issues ‘politeness manual’ to improve passengers’ behavior
- Justin Bieber, crew detained at Australian airport in drug search
- Lee Rigby trial: Muslim who machete-hacked soldier calls it ‘humane’ kill
- GM ending Chevy sales in Europe to focus on Opel and Vauxhall
- Putin’s diplomats to U.S. busted for living high life off $1.5M bilked from Medicaid
- Happy Meal: Couple goes to McDonald’s, leaves with bag packed with cash
- Boehner: It took me 3 to 4 hours to sign up for Obamacare
Obama’s transparency promises stall
President Obama ran in 2008 while making big promises on transparency and ethics, including vows to ban lobbyists from working for him, to throw open negotiations on health care legislation, to speed freedom-of-information requests and to let voters have direct input before he signed bills into law.
He is making no such promises in this year’s campaign, though, nor is he taking a victory lap on those old vows.
That’s because while he made some progress — particularly in making White House visitor logs public — his record on the other promises falls short of what he pledged.
Freedom-of-information requests are taking even longer, dozens of lobbyists have earned waivers to work for him, the presidential public campaign finance system remains unusable and, more recently, House investigators have released documents showing the backroom deals he cut with health insurance industry players to win support for his 2010 overhaul.
“We were pretty excited when he first came in about his commitment to transparency — that seemed pretty good compared to the Bush years,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open-government group. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t panned out that way. If anything, the Obama administration is less transparent than prior administrations.”
A transparency report to be released Monday by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute gives the administration an abysmal grade for “virtually ignoring” Mr. Obama’s promise to post laws on the White House website for five days before the president signs them, in order to give voters a chance to email their comments.
Cato also tested all 20 Cabinet-level agencies and said 19 failed to obey the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Transparency advocates held high hopes for Mr. Obama, and for much of the first two years of his tenure they said he should be given more time to show progress. When his administration was slow to begin posting legislation online in 2009, they gave him a pass.
But many of those advocates have soured on the White House.
One of Mr. Obama’s most prominent vows was a promise to ban lobbyists from working for his administration. He signed an executive order to that effect, but also allowed a waiver, which he has used dozens of times.
One area where Mr. Obama fulfilled a pledge — making White House visitor logs public — turned out to be a somewhat empty victory. It turned out that officials were holding meetings with lobbyists just across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. when they wanted to keep those dealings secret.
Open-government groups say Mr. Obama even began to push back against FOIA requests, asking courts to reverse decades of precedent that held exceptions to the law should be “narrowly construed” so as to promote maximum transparency.
“We do not embrace that principle,” Assistant Solicitor General Anthony Yang told Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2011.
The admission was particularly stunning considering Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s instructions on the first day of the administration that the executive branch was going to approach FOIA requests with a presumption toward disclosure.
Ms. Lynch said she has experienced serious resistance to her requests for information about predator drone flights in the U.S. She recently filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security demanding answers about how and why it loans out its drones to other law enforcement agencies across the country.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- GOP senators want IG probe of Sebelius' 'Obamacare' fundraising
- Teaming up with Christie, Obama says Jersey shore 'back in business'
- No Moore: Obama flubs name of Oklahoma city devastated by tornado, calls it 'Monroe'
- Obama to Okla. tornado victims: 'We have got your back'
- Amid his own challenges, Obama calls on Navy grads to hold themselves accountable
Latest Blog Entries
Why such hatred toward America's freedom of religion?
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality: liberal group
- Inside China: Nuclear submarines capable of widespread attack on U.S.
- Russian diplomats busted bilking $1.5 million from Medicaid
- Democratic infighting erupts over 'we can have it all' fantasy on entitlements
- NAPOLITANO: Pope Francis should be saving souls, not pocketbooks
- Hack attack: 2 million Facebook, Twitter passwords stolen
- Obama returns to class warfare as poll numbers plunge
- CARSON: Getting to the top by starting at the bottom
- Activists encourage Obama to circumvent Congress, use more executive authority
- Obama lived with Uncle Onyango Obama in the 1980s, White House admits
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
Understanding economic events with a free market explanation
John Wood illustrates a new American politics, and the path to get there.
Interviews and show reviews from the Los Angeles punk scene past and present. Los Angeles has always been rich in punk rock talent since punk rock was born.
White House pets gone wild!