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Government Transparency like you’ve never seen before


Guest Norm
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Today marks a major milestone in government transparency -- and an important lesson in the unintended consequences of such vigorous disclosure.

 

We previously announced that the White House in December of this year would -- for the first time in history -- begin posting all White House visitor records under the terms of our new voluntary disclosure policy. As part of that initiative, we also offered to look back at the records created before the announcement of the policy and answer specific requests for visitor records created earlier in the year.

 

So far we've processed 110 disclosure requests from September that yielded nearly 500 visitor records. All of these are now available on the White House website in accessible, searchable format for anyone to browse or download. Consistent with our earlier announcement that we will only release records 90 days or older, this first batch covers the period of time between January 20, 2009 to July 31, 2009. Future batches will be posted on an ongoing basis. (You can submit a request here.)

 

This first release is only the latest in a series of unprecedented steps by the President to increase openness in government. They include putting up more government information than ever before on data.gov and recovery.gov, reforming the government's FOIA processes, providing on-line access to White House staff financial reports and salaries, adopting a tough new state secrets policy, reversing an executive order that previously limited access to presidential records, and web-casting White House meetings and conferences. The release also compliments our new lobbying rules, which in addition to closing the revolving door for lobbyists who work in government have also emphasized expanding disclosure of lobbyist contacts with the government.

 

There's an important lesson here as well. This unprecedented level of transparency can sometimes be confusing rather than providing clear information.

 

A lot of people visit the White House, up to 100,000 each month, with many of those folks coming to tour the buildings. Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few "false positives" – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else. In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly ("R. Kelly"), and Malik Shabazz). The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House. Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names.

 

Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform

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White House Voluntary Disclosure Policy Visitor Access Records

 

The President has decided to increase governmental transparency by implementing a voluntary disclosure policy governing White House visitor access records. The White House will release, on a monthly basis, all previously unreleased WAVES and ACR access records that are 90 to 120 days old. For example, records created in January 2010 will be released at the end of April 2010. The short time lag will allow the White House to continue to conduct business, while still providing the American people with an unprecedented amount of information about their government. No previous White House has ever adopted such a policy.

 

The voluntary disclosure policy will apply to records created after September 15, 2009, and the first release of records (covering the month of September) will occur at the end of the year, on or about December 31, 2009. We expect that each monthly release will include tens of thousands of electronic records. Since the White House considers these records to be subject to the Presidential Records Act, it will continue to preserve them accordingly.

 

The White House voluntary disclosure policy will be subject to the following exceptions:

 

1. The White House will not release fields within the access records that implicate personal privacy or law enforcement concerns (e.g., dates of birth, social security numbers, and contact phone numbers); records that implicate the personal safety of EOP staff (their daily arrival and departure); or records whose release would threaten national security interests.

2. The White House will not release access records related to purely personal guests of the first and second families (i.e., visits that do not involve any official or political business).

3. The White House will not release access records related to a small group of particularly sensitive meetings (e.g., visits of potential Supreme Court nominees). The White House will disclose each month the number of records withheld on this basis, and it will release such records once they are no longer sensitive.

4. Visitor information for the Vice President and his staff at the White House Complex will be disclosed pursuant to the policy outlined above. It is not possible, however, to release visitor information for the Vice President’s Residence in an identical format to the White House Complex at this time because the Residence is not equipped with the WAVES and ACR systems that are in place at the White House Complex. The Office of the Vice President will, instead, release the guest lists for official events at the Residence and will also review the Vice President’s and Dr. Biden’s daily schedules and release the names and dates of visitors to the Residence who appear on those schedules. The Vice President’s staff is working with the Secret Service to upgrade the visitor records system at the Residence. When the electronic update is complete, visitor information for the White House Complex and the Residence will be released in a common format.

 

WAVES and ACR records created between January 20 and September 15, 2009 will not be subject to the voluntary disclosure policy. Instead, the White House will respond voluntarily to individual requests submitted to the Counsel’s Office that seek records during that time period, but only if the requests are reasonable, narrow, and specific (e.g., requests that list specific possible visitors). Responses to reasonable requests will be subject to the four exceptions described above.

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/WhiteHouseVoluntaryDisclosurePolicy/

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  • 2 weeks later...

We don't have government transparency, but what we do have we recovery.gov is Fuzzy Math.

By the way; We as a country can't keep on playing the game of fuzzy math.

 

 

All of you have heard on the news about how This Administration is playing with the numbers.

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Guest JT in DC

While I agree the gvnt. engages in Fuzzy Math, what was not fuzzy but in fact crystal clear was GW Busch stealing the 2k election via the Florida Supreme court. Who was the governor of Florida at the time?

Brother Jeb.

Good ole boy's club? I think so ...

 

 

We don't have government transparency, but what we do have we recovery.gov is Fuzzy Math.

By the way; We as a country can't keep on playing the game of fuzzy math.

 

 

All of you have heard on the news about how This Administration is playing with the numbers.

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LOL, I was there, and you don't know what you are typing about when it came to the 2000 elections "With Respect".

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

While I agree the gvnt. engages in Fuzzy Math, what was not fuzzy but in fact crystal clear was GW Busch stealing the 2k election via the Florida Supreme court. Who was the governor of Florida at the time?

Brother Jeb.

Good ole boy's club? I think so ...

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  • 1 month later...
Guest Democracy 21

A Report Card on the Obama Administration's Executive Branch Lobbying,

Ethics and Transparency Reforms in 2009

 

Issued by Common Cause, Democracy 21,

League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG

 

Reform groups issued a report card today on the Executive Branch lobbying, ethics and transparency reforms implemented by the Obama Administration in its first year.

 

The groups include Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG.

 

The report card is based on the changes in Executive Branch rules and policies made by the Obama Administration in 2009, measured by what an Administration can accomplish solely through its own Executive Branch actions and in light of what past Administrations have done.

 

The report card concludes:

 

The cumulative effect of the Administration's actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities.

 

The report card covers seven areas in which the Administration has implemented government reforms and provides a grade for each area.

 

The report card states:

 

We recognize that legitimate questions may exist about aspects of the various policies and their implementation. The positions we have set forth are based on an overall assessment of each of the policies in the context of this reality. The areas and grades, discussed in detail in the report, include the following:

 

* Revolving Door Lobbying Ban, A

* Open Government, A

* Reverse Revolving Door Restrictions, A

* Lobbyist Gift Ban, B

* Preventing Lobbyists from Serving on Advisory Boards, B

* Restrictions on Seeking Stimulus Funds, B

* Restrictions on Seeking Financial Bailout, No Grade

 

According to the report card:

 

The new rules and policies have begun the difficult process of changing the way business is done in Washington.

 

President Obama deserves recognition and high praise for the ethics, lobbying and transparency rules put in place for the Executive Branch during his first year in office.

 

Our organizations give the Obama Administration very high grades for the Executive Branch reforms it implemented during 2009.

 

The report card further states:

 

At the same time, however, the overriding issue that has to be addressed to change the way business is done in Washington is the corrupting role played by campaign money in influencing federal officeholders and government decisions.

 

Washington lobbyists, special interests and campaign contributions combine to exercise enormous influence over government decisions at the great expense of the American people. The Washington influence-money culture fundamentally undermines the integrity of our government and is a prime cause for the deep cynicism that exists in our society about government policies and federal officeholders.

 

To date, the Obama Administration has not pursued public policy reforms in the campaign finance area. In 2010 and beyond, the core test for the Obama Administration's government reform agenda will be its efforts to reform the nation's campaign finance laws and the enforcement of those laws. In the end, in order to successfully take on Washington's influence-money culture, the Obama Administration must take on and win the battle for fundamental campaign finance reform.

 

At stake here is nothing less than the right of the American people to a government free from influence-buying corruption.

 

According to the report card:

 

Fundamental reform of the nation's campaign finance laws requires:

 

* Repairing the presidential public financing system, which President Obama publicly committed to do during his 2008 presidential campaign;

* Establishing a public financing system for congressional races, and

* Creating a new campaign finance enforcement system to replace the failed Federal Election Commission.

 

The report card states:

 

These campaign finance reforms are the overriding government reform challenge facing President Obama as he begins his second year in office. We look forward to President Obama providing strong leadership on these essential campaign finance reforms and to working with the Obama Administration and congressional leaders to achieve these goals.

 

The full report card follows.

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Guest Democracy 21

This report card on the Obama Administration's Executive Branch lobbying, ethics and transparency reforms during its first year in office is being issued by Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG.

 

The report card is based on the changes in Executive Branch rules and policies made by the Obama Administration in 2009, measured by what an Administration can accomplish solely through its own Executive Branch actions and in light of what past Administrations have done. Other reforms necessary to deal with the overriding problem caused by the use of campaign money to influence federal officeholders and government decisions are discussed below in the summary.

 

President Obama began his Executive branch efforts by institutionalizing a role in the White House for government reform issues, appointing Norm Eisen as Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform.

 

On the first full day of his Administration, President Obama issued Executive Order 13490, entitled "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel."

 

The Executive Order went further than any previous presidential action on ethics and lobbying reforms, establishing the strongest and most far reaching revolving door provisions ever adopted by an Administration.

 

The Executive Order was followed by a series of White House memoranda and guidelines dealing with the relationship between special interests and the Executive Branch, including new open government and transparency policies, new restrictions on interests seeking government funds from executive branch departments and new restrictions on lobbyists serving on federal advisory panels.

 

The new reforms implemented by the Obama Administration include:

 

* Revolving Door Lobbying Ban. Upon leaving government service, former Obama Administration appointees are prohibited from lobbying any covered official in the entire Executive branch for as long as President Obama is in office. The scope and length of coverage of these revolving door provisions go far beyond any such provisions ever previously adopted.

 

* Open Government. The Administration adopted a series of precedent-setting open government policies, resulting in new information being released to the public and posted on the Internet. This includes information on White House meetings with private interests, policies to expedite information being provided in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and information on interests seeking stimulus funding, government contracts and waivers from ethics rules. The Administration also issued a government wide "Open Government Directive" and established a National Declassification Center.

 

* Reverse Revolving Door Restrictions. Individuals who served as lobbyists during the two-year period prior to joining the Obama Administration are prohibited from being appointed to any agency or department that they lobbied for two years after they join the Administration. Waivers from the reverse revolving door restrictions may be granted in special circumstances. Lobbyists can serve in other agencies and departments of the executive branch, but are prohibited during the two-year period from participating as government officials in any particular matter on which they lobbied or in the specific issue area in which the particular matter falls.

 

All Obama Administration appointees are prohibited for two years following their appointment from participating in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to former employers or clients.

 

* Lobbyist Gift Ban. Obama Administration appointees are prohibited from accepting gifts from lobbyists or organizations that employ or retain lobbyists. The Office of Government Ethics is directed to make the lobbyist gift ban applicable to all executive branch employees.

 

* Preventing Lobbyists from Serving on Advisory Boards. The White House has urged (but not mandated) agencies and departments not to appoint or reappoint registered lobbyists to serve on federal advisory boards and commissions.

 

* Restrictions on Seeking Stimulus Funds. A pilot program requires any person seeking government funds under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act to make all requests and comments regarding the grant in writing, once a written grant request has been submitted to the Executive Branch. All such requests and comments are required to be posted by the Executive Branch department involved on the Internet within three days. Any other communications by a lobbyist about stimulus funds must be disclosed on the Internet by the agency or department receiving the communication.

 

* Restrictions on Seeking Financial Bailout. Similar rules requiring written comments and requests were established for the financial bailout program. Such rules were adopted, however, well after the program was begun.

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Guest Democracy 21

The cumulative effect of the Administration's actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities.

 

The new rules and policies have begun the difficult process of changing the way business is done in Washington.

 

President Obama deserves recognition and high praise for the ethics, lobbying and transparency rules put in place for the Executive Branch during his first year in office.

 

Our organizations give the Obama Administration very high grades for the Executive Branch reforms it implemented during 2009.

 

At the same time, however, the overriding issue that has to be addressed to change the way business is done in Washington is the corrupting role played by campaign money in influencing federal officeholders and government decisions.

 

Washington lobbyists, special interests and campaign contributions combine to exercise enormous influence over government decisions at the great expense of the American people. The Washington influence-money culture fundamentally undermines the integrity of our government and is a prime cause for the deep cynicism that exists in our society about government policies and federal officeholders.

 

To date, the Obama Administration has not pursued public policy reforms in the campaign finance area. In 2010 and beyond, the core test for the Obama Administration's government reform agenda will be its efforts to reform the nation's campaign finance laws and the enforcement of those laws. In the end, in order to successfully take on Washington's influence-money culture, the Obama Administration must take on and win the battle for fundamental campaign finance reform.

 

At stake here is nothing less than the right of the American people to a government free from influence-buying corruption.

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Guest ALWAYSRED

ROFLMAO - Even I know that secret deals behind closed doors will never change. It has been done since the Roman Senate. What the mob does not know, never happenned. C-SPAN CEO Brian Patrick Lamb, offered to broadcast the negotiations between the Senate and the House over the details of the health-care bill. The White House pronounced that unnecessary, since many other discussions had been public.

 

December 30, 2009

 

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker

United States House of Representatives

 

The Honorable John Boehner

Minority Leader

United States House of Representatives

 

The Honorable Harry Reid

Majority Leader

United States Senate

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader

United States Senate

 

As your respective chambers work to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate health care bills, C-SPAN requests that you open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage.

 

The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all these sessions LIVE and in their entirety. We will also, as we willingly do each day, provide C-SPAN multi-camera coverage to any interested member of the Capitol Hill broadcast pool.

 

Since the initial Introduction of America's Affordable Health Care Act of 2009 in the House and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the Senate, C-SPAN has televised literally hundreds of hours of committee hearings, mark ups and floor debate on these bills for the public to see. An importantly, we have archived all this video for future generations to study in the C-SPAN Video Archives.

 

President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation's editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system. Now the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American.

 

We hope you will give serious consideration to this request. We are most willing to employ the latest digital technology to the cameras, lights and microphones unobtrusive as possible.

 

Please contact me if I can answer any questions.

 

Brian P. Lamb

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