Thge MOST OPEN and TRANSPARENT administration in history? He has not even begun and he is failing. Or is it, the most transparent administration when we want to be transparent and when it is important (as determined by us).
Obama fails to disclose transition meetings
Lynn Sweet, Sun-Times Columnist
December 29, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The Obama team, pledging the ''most open and transparent transition in history,'' gets an ''A'' for disclosing donors to the Jan. 20 inauguration and a ''F'' when it comes to revealing transition meetings with groups. Contrary to its own ''seat at the table transparency policy,'' meetings are not posted on a Web site.
I'm giving a ''B'' to the Obama transition report on staff contacts with Gov. Blagojevich. The report was a summary narrative released last week of an internal inquiry into Gov. Blagojevich's selling-of-a-Senate seat scandal. While the Obama team deserves credit for disclosure -- including that President-elect Barack Obama and incoming White House staffers Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel met with federal prosecutors -- offering some notes or transcripts to support the conclusions would have been helpful.
During the presidential primary campaign, then candidate Obama, made a pledge that if he were elected president, he would post his meetings on the Internet. Currently, the only items posted are materials submitted by groups in connection with a transition meeting.
During the presidential primary campaign, then candidate Obama, still an Illinois senator, made a pledge I heard for the first time on Oct. 24, 2007. In a school gym in Dover, N.H., Obama said if president, he would post his meetings on the Internet. That was interesting to me because Obama's Senate staff had been very selective about what Obama Senate-related meetings they disclosed and seemed to be guided by a ''less is best'' policy.
A month after the election, on Dec. 5, John Podesta, a transition co-chair, issued an Obama transparency policy. When it comes to meetings, ''the date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices'' would be ''posted on our Web site,'' at www.change.gov.
Indeed, the ''seat at the table'' section states ''on this page, you can track these meetings, view documents provided to the Transition and leave comments for the team,'' but the statement is only partly true.
What is posted are materials -- for example, briefing or position papers -- submitted by groups in connection with a transition meeting. There is no list of meetings on the site, with a meeting defined in the policy as having three or more participants.
Transition spokesman Nick Shapiro, asked why the meetings are not posted despite the policy, said, ''This policy is part of President-elect Obama's commitment to run the most open and transparent transition in history. The transition staff has been instructed that this is a floor and not a ceiling. No transition has ever attempted to implement such disclosure requirements, and as we continue to evaluate the policy, refinements will be made to it."
There's better disclosure news when it comes to Obama's Presidential Inauguration Committee.
The PIC is providing near real time postings of donors of $200 or more, with a user-friendly searchable database at the PICs Web site, www.pic2009.org.
Donations are posted within 48 hours and include the contributors' state and employer. In another advance on the transparency front, inauguration bundlers -- those who tap their personal networks for money -- are disclosed with how much they have raised.
The Obama team set $50,000 per-person contribution limit for the inauguration with a $300,000-per-bundler cap; no corporate or political action committee money is accepted.
The PIC is revealing more about bundlers than did the presidential campaign.