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Obama’s Promise of Transparency in Government

February 1st, 2009 by selise

Remember the ethics campaign promises in Obama & Biden’s Plan to Change Washington? This is from their campaign’s webpage on ethics reform:

The Problem

Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.

Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the "state secrets" privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.

Wasteful Spending is Out of Control: The current administration has abused its power by handing out contracts without competition to its politically connected friends and supporters. These abuses cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

From the main section, "Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s Plan," here is one of their campaign promises (my bold):

Sunlight Before Signing: Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.

From the Sunlight Foundation on Jan 29th (please see post for comments and links) – White House Breaks Transparency Promise:

In a blog post announcing the President’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first piece of legislation he has signed, we are informed that the bill has been posted on the White House web site and is now open for comment… after the President signed it.

For quite some time President Obama has promised that all non-emergency legislation will be open for public comment on Whitehouse.gov for 5 days before the President signs it. I am not sure what constitutes “emergency” legislation; providing emergency appropriations in response to a disaster or attack would apply. This was supposed to be a major element to the President’s transparency efforts, even though the effect of it can be disputed (the bill has already passed and can’t be changed). A blog post from the White House on January 20th say this:

One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

It is too bad they let this transparency promise slip on the very first piece of legislation that hit the President’s desk. After a few transparency wins for the administration, it looks like they’ve hit their first fail.

Postings on the openhouse listserv have been flying. I’ve seen nothing like it with open government activists. This is a very big deal and the only reason I haven’t commented on it before is that I’ve been hoping to see an Obama supporter address it. I thought that if an Obama critic (like me) posted on it, it might not be taken seriously. But it’s been almost a week and no such luck, so here it is… because there is no such thing as transparency in government without an engaged citizenry to hold government accountable.

(x-posted at oxdown)

    One Response to “Obama’s Promise of Transparency in Government”

  1. 1 selise said:

    JimWhite says CNN has the story now.

    replyReply to this comment

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