Politico posted an article yesterday showing how the Obama Administration is claiming to be transparent while holding meetings outside the White House so that those meetings will not appear on the released White House visitor records. There are also private email accounts used to keep the emails out of the public record.
The article reports:
A House Energy and Commerce Committee report out Tuesday is stocked with emails sent from private addresses and meetings scheduled away from the building to avoid official record. Among these are several sent to a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist by Messina, then President Barack Obama’s then-deputy White House chief of staff, making promises about language for the health care reforms despite the resistance of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the measure.
The article cites an email from a private account of Jeff Smith, a senior adviser to the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to Jim Kirkland, an executive from the GPS industry, which involved an invitation to meet away from the White House:
“Jim – coffee at Caribou Coffee – across the corner from the WH – would work at 11:30 a.m. on Friday…plus getting you through the new WH security rules these days almost takes an act of Congress almost (and you know how well that’s going these days),” Smith wrote. “[P]lus you’d appear on an official WH Visitor List which is maybe not want [sic] you want at this stage …”
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said in a statement accompanying the report that he isn’t alleging illegal activity — just that the administration’s actions has fallen far short of its transparency promises.
I might be more tolerant of these meetings if they hadn’t involved under-the-table deals which impacted legislation under consideration.
The article points out:
Rick Weiss, the director of strategic communications for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in a statement that “Jeff Smith played no role in the LightSquared-GPS process.”
After POLITICO published a story in February 2011 on meetings arranged at offices on Jackson Place near the White House, White House press secretary Jay Carney said “the guiding principle here is transparency, and we believe that — nobody is, that I’m aware of, is hiding where they’re meeting.”
“It is routine for the White House officials to meet with all types of people, including lobbyists, and frequently here,” Carney said. “The suggestion that we’re not being transparent is laughable given the unbelievable precedent this administration has set in its — closing the door, the revolving door, and releasing these records.”
It really is time for these people to go back to Chicago.