Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Transparent' Obama Admin's Opaque Policy on Releasing Lists

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 10:   U.S. President Geo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

President Barack Obama, whose campaign pledged transparency and promised to shine a light on the daily workings of government, has so far continued his predecessor's battle against releasing lists of influential visitors to the White House, and been less forthcoming than President George W. Bush in disclosing the members of their respective Supreme Court Judicial candidate's hearing prep teams.

In 2006, President Bush provided the names of 38 individuals who helped now Justice Samuel P. Alito, Jr., steel himself for the grilling he received at his nomination hearings. Those who helped Justice Alito rehearse his insightful answers to questions from Senators ("I won't speculate about an issue that may come before the Court") included former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and White House Asst. Counsel Benjamin Powell. Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wisc.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had requested such a list.

In contrast, an Email from a spokesperson for the Obama Administration said no such list would be forthcoming of individuals who helped Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor prepare her insightful answers to questions from Senators ("I won't speculate about an issue that may come before the Court"). The Email cited no statutory basis or presidential privilege to support its stance, other than to state: "'fly-on-the-wall' stories aren't our style."

Meanwhile, the Secret Service has invoked the so-called "presidential communications privilege" oft-relied on by President Bush, as its grounds for refusing to produce a list of health industry executives who visited the White House. A government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested of the Secret Service information concerning representatives of drug manufacturers, doctors and health insurers with whom the White House has met regarding its health care reform proposals. CREW plans to file suit against the Obama Administration for the release of the visitor logs. See "TUOL" 6/16/09 regarding CREW lawsuit for the release of White House visitor logs since January 2009.

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