Obama Transparency Record
From OpenCongress Wiki
This page is devoted to President Obama's transparency record from the time he was in the Senate until the present.
For excerpts from Campaign and Transition materials, see Ellen Miller's retrospective blog post. For general transition related materials, see this Open Congress page, complied by John Wonderlich at the Sunlight Foundation, Allison Broad of the Open House Project, and the Open Senate Project.
Obama's Ethics Agenda, as according to Change.gov:
Shine the Light on Washington Lobbying
- Centralize Ethics and Lobbying Information for Voters: Obama and Biden will create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.
- Require Independent Monitoring of Lobbying Laws and Ethics Rules: Obama and Biden will use the power of the presidency to fight for an independent watchdog agency to oversee the investigation of congressional ethics violations so that the public can be assured that ethics complaints will be investigated.
- End the Practice of Writing Legislation Behind Closed Doors: As president, Barack Obama will restore the American people's trust in their government by making government more open and transparent. Obama will work to reform congressional rules to require all legislative sessions, including committee mark-ups and conference committees, to be conducted in public. By making these practices public, the American people will be able to hold their leaders accountable for wasteful spending and lawmakers won't be able to slip favors for lobbyists into bills at the last minute.
Shine the Light on Federal Contracts, Tax Breaks and Earmarks
- Create a Public "Contracts and Influence" Database: As president, Obama will create a "contracts and influence" database that will disclose how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, and what contracts they are getting and how well they complete them.
- Expose Special Interest Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure that any tax breaks for corporate recipients -- or tax earmarks -- are also publicly available on the Internet in an easily searchable format.
- End Abuse of No-Bid Contracts: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will end abuse of no-bid contracts by requiring that nearly all contract orders over $25,000 be competitively awarded.
- 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.
- Shine Light on Earmarks and Pork Barrel Spending: Obama's Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act will shed light on all earmarks by disclosing the name of the legislator who asked for each earmark, along with a written justification, 72 hours before they can be approved by the full Senate.
Bring Americans Back into their Government
- Hold 21st Century Fireside Chats: Obama will bring democracy and policy directly to the people by requiring his Cabinet officials to hold periodic national broadband townhall meetings to discuss issues before their agencies.
- Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.
- Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see these debates in person or watch them on the internet.
- Release Presidential Records: Obama and Biden will nullify attempts to make the timely release of presidential records more difficult.
Free the Executive Branch from Special Interest Influence
- Close the Revolving Door on Former and Future Employers: No political appointees in the Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.
- Free Career Officials from the Influence of Politics: Obama will issue an executive order asking all new hires at the agencies to sign a form affirming that no political appointee offered them the job solely on the basis of political affiliation or contribution.
- Reform the Political Appointee Process: FEMA Director Michael Brown was not qualified to head the agency, and the result was a disaster for the people of the Gulf Coast. But in the Obama-Biden administration, every official will have to rise to the standard of proven excellence in the agency's mission.
- Enforce Executive Branch Ethics: The Obama-Biden administration will give the Office of Governmental Ethics strong enforcement authority with the ability to make binding regulations, and it will work with inspectors general in all the federal agencies to enforce ethics rules, minimize waste and ensure federal officials are not using their offices for personal gain. The OGE will also be the clearinghouse of all public records relevant to ethics in the Executive Branch and place this information on its website. Finally, the OGE will promulgate rules and procedures to record all oral and in-person "lobbying contacts" between registered lobbyists and political appointees and make those records available to the public in a searchable computerized database.
Spend Taxpayer Money Wisely
- Performance Team and Chief Performance Officer: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will create a focused team within the White House that will work with agency leaders and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to improve results and outcomes for federal government programs while eliminating waste and inefficiency. This unit, a SWAT team, will be composed of top-performing and highly-trained government professionals and be headed by a new Chief Performance Officer (CPO) who will report directly to the president. The CPO will work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers responsible for progress. The president will meet regularly with cabinet officers to review the progress their agencies are making toward meeting performance improvement targets.
- Streamline Government Procurement: Barack Obama will implement the GAO's recommendations to reduce erroneous federal payments, reduce procurement costs with purchase cards, and implement better management of surplus federal property. These initiatives will save $4.5 billion a year.
- Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
- Line-by-Line Review of Spending: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will conduct an exhaustive line-by-line review of the federal budget, work to eliminate government programs that are not performing, and demand that new initiatives be selected on the basis of their merits -- not through a political process that rewards lobbyists and campaign donors.
- Slash Earmarks: Earmarks grew from $7.8 billion in 1994 to $29 billion in 2006. Barack Obama is committed to returning earmarks to less than $7.8 billion a year, the level they were at before 1994.
- Shed Sunlight on Corporate Tax Loopholes: The tax code is riddled with corporate loopholes and preferential regulations that benefit a handful of companies at the expense of the rest of the business community as well as ordinary families. Some large companies have managed to secure tax breaks or hide their profits in overseas tax havens to avoid paying any American corporate taxes at all. Obama and Biden will require any tax bill considered by Congress to include a Corporate Tax Impact Statement that would disclose which industries or specific companies would be expected to benefit from the new tax breaks.
Relevant Exceprts from Obama's Technology Agenda, as according to Change.gov:
Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy
- Open Up Government to its Citizens: Use cutting-edge technologies to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America's citizens.
- Bring Government into the 21st Century: Use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure the safety of our networks and lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.
- Senator Obama sponsored S. 2590 (THOMAS, GovTrack, OpenCongress), or the Federal Funding Accountabilty and Transparency Act, which created USASpending.gov, the first single federal website detailing federal grants and contracts.
- He also sponsored or cosponsored two successful amendments to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, or HLOGA (S.1), requiring Senate committees to post transcripts of their public meetings (S.AMDT.15 to S.1), and to add a fundraising disclosure requirement for lobbyists (S.AMDT.41 to S.1).
- Senator Obama also proposed the Congressional Ethics Enforcement Commission Act of 2006, which sought to establish an outside ethics commission to receive complaints from the public on alleged ethics violations (S. 2259).
- He also proposed the CLEAN UP Act, which aimed to open conference committee proceedings and require full disclosure of the contents of conference reports and all other legislation.(S. 2179)
- He sponsored the Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act, under which all earmarks, including the name of the requestor and a justification for the earmark, would have to be disclosed 72 hours before they could be considered by the full Senate. Senators would be prohibited from advocating for an earmark if they have a financial interest in the project or earmark recipient. And, earmark recipients would have to disclose to an Office of Public Integrity the amount that they have spent on registered lobbyists and the names of those lobbyists. Several of these provisions were included in the ethics and lobbying reform bill that passed the Senate in January 2007.
White House Record
Open Government Directive
Transparency and Open Government Memo
January 21, 2009, on his first full day in office, President Obama issued a transparency and open government memo.
Most notably, the Memo stipulates that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and that:
- I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.
The memo directs the OMB Director to "coordinate the development... of recommendations for and Open Government Directive" within 120 days of January 21st, which is May 21st 2009. This is sometimes misinterpreted as a deadline for the Open Government Directive. The May 21st 120 day deadline refers to recommendations from agencies, not the directive itself.
The White House initiated a three piece public process to shape the Open Government Directive: As described on WhiteHouse.gov/open, they are: Brainstorm, Discuss, and Draft
- Brainstorm -- http://opengov.ideascale.com/ (on Ideascale)
- Discuss -- http://blog.ostp.gov/ (on the OSTP blog)
- Draft -- http://www.mixedink.com/OpenGov/ (on MixedInk)
While we don't know everything going on within government to create the directive, OSTP did release an anonymized version of their interior discussion on transparency reform, available here.
The Open Government Progress Report to the American People - December 2009
Contains information on steps taken by the administration to that date and goals still to be met. Appendix 2 lists cabinet level projects aimed at Open Government directives and goals. Appendix 3 lists a selection of transparency milestones, datasets released, and projects completed.
Sunlight has written extensively on the OGD since the progress report. Most recently, we noted that some of the information released had been helpful, but ultimately concluded that the results have been mixed, at best.
Presidential Records Act
1st day memo -- http://govpulse.us/entries/2009/01/26/E9-1773/freedom-of-information-act AG Holder Memo -- [www.justice.gov/ag/foia-memo-march2009.pdf PDF] (replaces Ashcroft memo) DOJ Press Release: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/March/09-ag-253.html
More recently the Obama Administration has come under some fire for its stances of freedom of information and secrecy
Personal Financial Disclosures of Top Officials
Financial disclosure forms are not available in a uniform way and must be requested. ProPublica has taken upon themselves (at least twice) to request all executive branch disclosures and post them publicly online. View them here (Last updated, summer 2010).
The White House has made a point to publicize President Obama and Vice President Biden's financial disclosures
Five Day Pledge
President Obama pledged to post bills online for five days between the time they were passed by congress and when he signed them. The administration quickly changed the nature of this pledge after it failed to follow through and was criticized as being too little too late. They stated that they would begin posting bills online as soon as it was clear they would have the votes to pass congress. More information:
Recovery.gov was set up to track spending linked to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It was designed to provide taxpayers with user-friendly tools to track how and wear recovery funds were spent.
Recovery.gov on Twitter
their own section
On the White House website http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/ethics-commitments-executive-branch-personnel
The administration also pledged to set up an online hub for ethics information, tentatively to be called ethics.gov. The website does not yet exist, and as of September 2010 there had been little progress. Update June 2012: Ethics.gov was officially launched in March 2012.
During the 2008 campaign Obama attacked George W. Bush for his record on invoking the "state secrets" privilege to avoid disclosing certain facts. Since gaining office, Obama has invoked the privilege on numerous occaisions. A few are highlighted below.
- The 180-degree reversal of Obama’s State Secrets position - Salon.com
- Citing Obama’s State Secrets Privilege, Court Tosses Torture Case - Wired
- Obama invokes 'state secrets' claim to dismiss suit against targeting of U.S. citizen al-Aulaqi - Washington Post
- Obama's Secrets - LA Times Editorial
- Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets (On state secrets, Obama is sounding like Bush) - New York Times
Live Streaming Healthcare Deliberations
While the OSTP Open Government blog (which moved to the White House) is, in a sense, entirely devoted to public dialog around transparency issues, the administration has held several more persistent dialogs, devoted to:
cookies, access policy, OGD,
The good and bad 2008-2012
This section is an attempt to compile the actions taken by the Obama administration that both helped and hindered transparency.
In their own words
Efforts to make the White House more transparent (ongoing)
As part of its broader efforts to promote government transparency, the Obama administration has made efforts to make the operations of the White House more open to the public. It publishes the President and Vice President's daily schedules and their tax returns and financial disclosure documents. It also makes ethics pledges and financial disclosure documents from White House Staff available. Finally, they regularly publish White House visitor logs.
- President and VP daily schedules
- President and VP tax returns and financial disclosure (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)
- White House staff ethics pledges/waivers and financial disclosure
- White House visitor logs
Ethics.gov (March 2012)
Ethics.Gov was launched in March 2012 and fulfilled a promise that President Obama made during his campaign for the White House. The site compiles White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure information, travel reports, contribution and committee reports from the FEC, and foreign agent registry information from the DoJ. It is intended to provide a single search point for ethics and influence information.
- White House Launches Ethics.gov - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 3/8/2012
- White House Launches Ethics.gov - Samuel Rubenfeld, Wall Street Journal, 3/8/2012
- White House Launches Ethics.gov portal - Byron Tau, Politico, 3/8/2012
- White House to launch new Web site, ethics.gov - Lisa Rein, Washington Post, 3/8/2012
- PolitiFact - Centralize Ethics and Lobbying Information for Voters
US-India partnership - Open Government Platform (November 2010 - present)
Following an Expo on Democracy and Open Government held in Mumbai, India the Obama Administration announced a US-India Dialogue on Open Government. The dialogue and partnership eventually led to the launch of the Open Government Platform. The platform is a joint product from India and the United States that aims to promote transparency and civic engagement by making government data, documents, tools, and processes publicly available. The platform is open source.
- Building a Better Partnership for Open Government: Right Here - Ellen Miller, 11/8/2010
- US-India Partnership on Open Government - Samantha Power, White House Blog, 11/7/2010
Open Government Directive (December 2009)
The Open Government Directive was launched by the Obama Administration at the end of 2009. At the time, the Sunlight Foundation described it as "an unprecedented plan...that will open public access to the information and policy-making process of the federal government." In addition to acknowledging that the Internet should be the primary medium for communicating information to the public, it required executive agencies to launch online portals to promote agency data to the public and create plans to proceed in an open manner. Agencies have since released, pursued, and updated their plans.
- A Watershed Moment in Transparency and Accountability - Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation, 12/11/2009
- Three Misconceptions about the Open Government Directive - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 12/11/2009
- White House Publishes Open Government Directive - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 12/8/2009
- Agency Plans Page
Executive Order 13526 - Classified National Security Information (December 2009)
Executive Order 13526 was written to create a "uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information. Its language attempts to balance the necessisty to protect sensitive national security information with the right of the American people to be away of the activities of their government and maintain a free flow of information between government and citizens. The order provides a general framework, but requires agencies to create their own rules and procedures for classification and declassification.
- Executive Order 13,256: Talk of Transparency Without Teeth To Enforce It - Brian Critz, National Security Law Brief, AUWCL, 4/19/2011
Executive Ordeer 13520 - Reducing Improper Payments and Waste (November 2009 - present)
The Obama Administration made it a priority to address the issue of improper payments and waste in federal programs in a transparent manner. In November 2009, President Obama released an Executive Order as part of his plan to achieve that goal. Eventually, a federal payment accuracy portal (paymentaccuracy.gov) was launched to track programs with high levels of improper payments and highlight success stories. The effort is ongoing and, according to a congressional hearing held in February 2012, is proceeding with mixed results. Over the past several years improper payments have been reduced, but numbers have fluctuated and there are still significant levels of waste in federal programs.
- Improper Payments are down, but there is still room to improve - Matt Rumsey, Sunlight Foundation, 2/15/2012
Data.gov (May 2009-ongoing)
As part of the Open Government Directive and agency open government plan creation, data.gov was launched to serve as a centralized government platform for federal data. The platform, launched in May 2009, now contains hundreds of thousands of federal datasets. Data.gov has received more than 200 million hits and more than 2 million datasets have been downloaded.
Federal Spending Transparency Efforts (January 2009 - present)
The Obama Administration has taken a variety of steps to improve transparency of federal spending information. They set up recovery.gov and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to oversee money spent via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Following in the RAT Board's footsteps, President Obama issued an Executive Order in June 2011 which created the Government Accountability and Transparency Board. Additionally, USAspending.gov was launched under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. It aims to track how tax dollars are being spent.
- White House Establishes Government Accountability and Transparency Board - Kevin Koehler, Sunlight Foundation, 6/13/2011
- Executive Order Establishing GATB
- Ten Organizations Praise Federal Financial Transparency Efforts - Daniel Schuman, Sunlight Foundation, 6/21/2011
- Letter praising federal financial transparency efforts - 6/21/2011
- Recovery.gov - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 1/28/2009
- Activists call for a mashup-friendly recovery.gov - Chris Soghoian, CNET, 1/27/2009
- Clearspending - A Sunlight Foundation project
Transition transparency (late 2008)
President Obama took steps to ensure transparency during his transition period before taking office. Obama's transition team adopted a Creative Commons license for the material they published, and used their "Seat at the Table" feature to make all policy documents and recommendations presented at official meetings with outside groups available online.
- Obama and Affirmative Disclosure - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 12/8/2012
Secretive trade negotiations (June 2012)
The Obama Administration has been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new trade agreement with 8 pacific nations. The negotiations have been conducted under a cloud of secrecy, with some members of Congress complaining that corporate officials are being given better access to related documents then them. Recently, a document from the negotiations was leaked that may indermine American sovereignty, giving an international tribunal the ability to overrule American law. Several members of Congress have taken steps to show their displeasure, introducing legislation in an attempt to force disclosure, and even going so far as to leak other documents from the negotiation.
- Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers and Broken Campaign Promises - Zach Carter, Huffington Post, 6/13/2012
- House Democrats want more open Pacific trade talks - Associated Press/Fox News, 6/27/2012
Deparment of Labor removal of rule making documents (May 2012)
The Department of Labor had proposed regulations relating to child labor in agriculture. Opponents of the regulations claimed that they would put an undue burden on family farms. The proposed regulations were eventually withdrawn. When the Department of Labor withdrew the propsed regulations they also removed all of the related documents that they had made publicly available from their website. A number of groups, including the Sunlight Foundation, were opposed to the document removal, arguing that material relating to such decisions should remain available for context.
- Sunlight and Allies to Department of Labor: No Website Scrubbing - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 5/23/2012
- Labor Department Abandons Child Farmworkers - Zama Coursen-Neff, Human Rights Watch, published in The Hill, 5/7/2012
- Child Agricultural Labor Rule: Not just dead, but erased from DOL's website - Science Blogs, Celeste Monforton, 5/4/2012
Reversal of position on super PACs, top officials undisclosed attendence at fundraisers (February 2012)
President Obama came out strongly against Citizens United and other court decisions that rolled back campaign finance restrictions. However, as it became clear that the decisions would stand and super PACs and other more loosely regulated vehicles would drive huge sums of money into the 2012 campaign he reversed course. His campaign reversed their early course and began doing what they could to support the pro-Obama super PACs that had to that point struggled to raise money, claiming that they could not play by different rules than the Republicans and stay competitive. The Obama campaign and administration went so far as to send high ranking campaign officials and cabinet secretaries to attend super PAC fundraisers without fully disclosing these activities.
- Secret Cabinets of Cash - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 2/13/2012
- Obama Super PAC Thoughts - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 2/7/2012
- Obama shift reconnects donors to Cabinet secretaries - Byron Tau, Politico, 2/13/2012
- Four Cabinet members willing to help Democratic super PACs - Michael Beckel, iWatchNews, 2/13/2012
- We will not play by two sets of rules - Jim Messina, in the Huffington Post, 2/6/2012
Department of Justice Issues (specifically FOIA) (October 2011 - Ongoing)
Despite its stated goal of being open, transparent, and efficient in its processing of FOIA requests, the Obama administration, specifically its justice department, has run into significant criticism. In late 2011 the DoJ proposed new regulations related to FOIA that would have been terrible for transparency. The most well publicized was a rule that would have allowed the government to lie about the existence of records when faced with a FOIA request.
Additionally, the Obama Justice Department has refused to release certain documents, aggressively prosecuted certain whistleblowers and leakers, and applied standard secrecy arguments. These dubious acts led the National Security Archive to give the DoJ it's Rosemary Award for worst open government performance in 2011.
- In Confrontation Betweent Congress and OMB, OMB Blinks -- A Little - Anne Weismann, 4/25/2012
- Justice Department's New FOIA Regulations: Still Worse than Reported - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 11/18/2011
- Obama's DOJ Seeks to Weaken the FOIA - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 11/18/2011
- Justice Department Wins Rosemary Award for Worst Open Government Performance in 2011 - National Security Archive, 2/14/2012
- Obama's Secrets - Los Angeles Times Editorial, 10/31/2011
- Obama Learns Newspeak: The Administration's Perversion of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - Harvey Silverglate, Forbes, 11/9/2011
"Super Committee" (Fall 2011)
In the Autumn of 2011 President Obama played a dangerous game with Congressional leaders over the debt limit. As part of the deal that ensued a special committee was convened to try and cut trillions of dollars from the federal deficit. Dubbed the "Super Committee", it held very few public meetings, faced widespread criticism, was hamstrung by further disputes between congressional leaders and the White House, and ultimately failed to achieve its goal. The Obama Administration initially tried to take credit for the creation and argue that it was good for the economy, budget, and country. However, as it became clear that the committee would fail to achieve its goal, the administration took to blaming Congress and distancing itself from the super committee.
- White House "About Page" on the Super Committee - 8/4/2011
- White House Fact Sheet: Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline
- Living within our means and investing in the future: The President's plan for economic growth and deficit reduction - 9/2011
- Obama steals thunder from super committee with veto threat - Corbett Daly, CBS News, 9/19/2012
- The supercommittee fails - and that's good for Obama - David Corn, Mother Jones, 11/21/2011
- Debt ceiling deal that cuts trillions, creates 'Super Congress' announced by party leaders - The Huffington Post, 7/31/2011
- On Supercommittee Failure - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 11/20/2012
Failure to adopt EO that would aid disclosure of contributions made by government conractors (In part based on pressure from Congress) (April 2011 - present)
In April 2011 President Obama floated a draft Executive Order that would have required government contractors, and those bidding on government contracts, to disclose information about political contributions made by the companies, their executives, and their subsidiaries. The proposal was met with strong opposition from members of Congress from both parties, as well as business groups. President neglected to take further action to make the Executive Order a reality.
- Missing the Forest for the Trees? - Lisa Rosenberg, Sunlight Foundation, 10/7/2012
- Preempting Sunlight - Lisa Rosenberg, Sunlight Foundation, 7/20/2011
- Chamber of Commerce coalition letter - 5/16/2012
- Draft Executive Order (4/13/2011)
"War on Whistleblowers" (March 2011 - present) President Obama's stance on investigating and prosecuting leaks and whistleblowers has been conflicting and often criticized. While he has taken an aggressive posture against leaks and whistleblowers that are potentially embarrasing to his administration, he has seemingly used leaks liberally when they were politically advantageous. The administration has faced particular criticism for the harsh manner they have treated Bradley Manning, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, and others.
- Opinion: Obama only goes after leaks that don't benefit him - Peter Van Buren, CBS News, 6/13/2012
- Opinion Obama's War on Whistleblowers - Peter Van Buren, Mother Jones, 6/12/2012
- The Obama Administration's disturbing treatment of whistleblowers - Paul Harris, The Guardian UK, 4/11/2012
- Obama's Unprecedented War on Whistleblowers - Peter Van Buren, Salon, 2/9/2012
- Wikileaks and Whistle-Blowers: Obama's Hard Line - Mark Benjamin, Time, 3/11/2011
Failure to enforce Bush Earmark EO 13457 (March 2011 - present)
In 2008 President Bush issued an Executive Order that required all earmarks to be included in the text of actual legislation, prevented executive agencies from acting on earmarks that were not requested in writing, and effectively provided a new level of transparency to the earmark process. President Obama failed to enforce this EO. When the House of Representatives banned earmarks altogether the process did not go away, it just shifted towards the senate and executive agencies with Representatives finding new avenues for their requests. In short, the process became even less transparent. The Obama Administration briefly flirted with it's own Executive Order that would have built on the Bush EO and require members of Congress to publicly disclose their earmark requests and desires. However, Obama never took substantive action on the issue.
- Executive Order 13457
- CRS Report on Earmarks Executive Order
- Where is Obama on Bush's Earmark Transparency Executive Order - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 3/7/2011
- A Step Back on Earmarks - John Wonderlich, New York Times, 7/24/2011
- Obama Administration May Take on Earmarks - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 11/7/2011
- Name and Shame? Obama Go Public with Lawmakers' Funding Requests - Reid Wilson, Sunlight Foundation, 11/5/2011
- Abstinence Only Earmark Reform - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, November 30, 2011
- What ever happened to earmark transparency? - Matt Rumsey, Sunlight Foundation, July 3, 2012
Healthcare Negotiations NOT-online (Winter 2010)
President Obama regularly stated that any negotiations and deliberations relating to his healthcare proposals would be available online and via CSPAN. However, when the time came to make a deal Congress hammered out a final agreement behind closed doors, a move approved by President Obama since it expedited the process.
- Obama Reneges on Health Care Transparency - CBS News, Chip Reid, 1/7/2010
- Secret Healthcare Negotiations? CNN, circa 1/7/2010
- Skipping Conference Committee: What does it mean? - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 1/4/2010
- Republicans should beware televised healthcare negotiations - Peter Roff, US News, Opinion, 2/8/2010
- Frontline: Obama's Deal - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 4/9/2010
PhRMA Dealmaking (Late 2009-Late 2010) During his campaign, President Obama targeted lobbyists and special interests, saying that he would work to change the tone of politics and nature of dealmaking in Washington. But, once in office achieving his policy priorities, notably healthcare reform, took precedent over avoiding potentially messy deals. During the campaign he had highlighted Billy Tauzin, a former member of Congress turned lobbyist for the pharmaceutical drug industry, as a prime example of the revolving door and pay-to-play culture in Washington. Once in the White House, it turned out that it was necessary to court the pharmeceutical drug industry to get the healthcare bill passed. The White House ended up hammering out a deal behind closed doors to get the industry on board.
- The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: the White House-PhRMA Deal - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation 2/12/2010
- White House Health Proposal May Blow Up PhRMA Deal - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 2/22/2012
- White House-PhRMA Update - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 3/1/2010
- Report: W.H. pushed hard for PhRMA health reform deal - Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico, 5/31/2012
National Security Secrecy/Use of "state secrets privilege" (February 2009-Present) During his campaign for the White House President Obama attacked then-President Bush for his liberal use of the State Secrets provision to get lawsuits thrown out of civil courts. The State Secrets privilege is an important safeguard, but in the past it had only been used to keep certain pieces of evidence or documents out of court. But, Bush and now Obama have used the privelege to get entire cases thrown out.
- Drone Strikes Against Citizens in Permanent Secrecy? - John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, 6/6/2012
- The 180-degree reversal of Obama's State Secrets position - Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 2/10/2009
- Citing Obama's State Secrets Privilege Court Tosses Torture Case - David Kravets, Wired, 9/8/2010
- Obama Invokes 'state secrets' Claim to Dismiss Suit Against Targeting of US Citizen Al-Aulaqi - Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, 9/25/2010
- Opinion: Obama's Secrets - Los Angeles Times, 10/31/2011
- Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets - John Schwartz, New York Times, 2/9/2010
Lobbyists in/out of the Administration (January 2009-Present) President Obama kicked off his administration with a sweeping Executive Order on ethics that aimed to target the revolving door and make it harder for administration officials to immediately become lobbyists. Additionally he claimed that he would keep lobbyists out of his administration. However, loopholes have been found and there is no well defined way to keep track of former administration officials who may or may not be lobbying. Additionally, the administration has granted waivers so some former lobbyists could work in the White House. Additionally, he has allowed so called "stealth lobbyists", most notably former Chief of Staff Bill Daley, to work in the White House. "Stealth Lobbyists" aren't registered as lobbyists, but are often former high ranking officials or other well connected individuals who essentially act as lobbyists.
- Obama's Revolving Door: Transparency - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 1/19/2011
- Why Doesn't Willia Daley Violate Obamas Lobbyist Ban - Paul Blumenthal, Sunlight Foundation, 1/7/2011
- Un-Do Influence: Obama's Lobbyist Ban is Tough (Except When It Isn't) - Joe Newman, POGO, 3/20/2012
- Obama's Lobbyist Ban Meets a Loophole: William Lynn - Mark Thompson, Time, 1/27/2009
Relevant Sunlight Blog Posts
- Drone Strikes Against Citizens in Permanent Secrecy? - John Wonderlich 6/6/2012
- The News Without Transparency: Obama Rewards Campaign Contributors - Melanie Buck 2/24/2012
- Secret Cabinets of Cash - John Wonderlich 2/13/2012
- Transparency in the State of the Union - John Wonderlich 1/24/2012
- Justice Departnment's New FOIA Regulations: Still Worse Than Reported - John Wonderlich 11/18/2011
- Obama's Open Government Directive, Two Years On - John Wonderlich 12/7/2011
- Obama Administration May Take on Earmarks - John Wonderlich 11/7/2011
- Obama's DOJ Seeks to Weaken the FOIA - John Wonderlich 10/28/2011
- Missing the Forest for the trees? - Lisa Rosenberg 10/7/2012
- Preparing for the US National Action Plan - John Wonderlich 9/16/2011
- Two Suggestions for the US National Action Plan - John Wonderlich 8/31/2011
- CRS Report Highlights President's Authority Over Federal Contractors - Jacob Hutt 6/23/2011
- White House Establishes Government Accountability and Transparency Board - Kevin Koehler 6/13/2011
- Public Cut Out Of Budget Negotiations - John Wonderlich 4/12/2011
- Transparency in the SOTU - John Wonderlich 1/26/2011
- New White House Memo on Regulatory Compliance 1/18/2011
- New Batch of White House Visitor Logs Released - Brad Bauman 2/2/2010
- "Put it on CSPAN" Translated - John Wonderlich 2/1/2010
- President Obama on Influence Peddling - Daniel Schuman 1/24/2010
- A Watershed Moment in Transparency and Accountability - Ellen Miller 12/11/2009
- New Stimulus Lobbying Policy Released - John Wonderlich 7/26/2009
- White House Publishes Staff Salaries - John Wonderlich 7/2/2009
- Today is 120 Days Since the Open Government Memo - John Wonderlich 5/21/2009
- White House Lobbying Meeting: Public Debrief - John Wonderlich 5/6/2009
- New OMB Memo Clarifies Lobbying Restrictions - John Wonderlich 4/12/2009
- White House Adds Web Access to Personal Financial Disclosures - John Wonderlich 4/6/2009
- White House: Where is the CTO? - Ellen Miller 2/10/2009
- Yet Another Bill Not Given the 5-Day Comment Period - Paul Blumenthal 2/4/2009
- On the 5-Day Bill Posting Pledge - Paul Blumenthal 2/2/2009
- Not 21st Century Style Disclosure - Ellen Miller 1/30/2009
- White House Breaks Transparency Promise - Paul Blumenthal 1/29/2009
- LTE: NYTimes Executive Branch Ethics: Let the Light Shine In - Ellen Miller 1/29/2009
- Recovery.gov - Paul Blumenthal 1/28/2009
- 'Direct to Constituent' Communications - Ellen Miller 1/28/2009
- Executive Orders and Whitehouse.gov - Paul Blumenthal 1/22/2009
- Memorandum on Transparency - Ellen Miller 1/22/2009
- Memorandum on FOIA - Ellen Miller 1/22/2009
- President Obama Issues New Transparency Policies - John Wonderlich 1/21/2009
- Federal CTO Wishlist - John Wonderlich 1/6/2009
- Obama and Affirmative Disclosure - John Wonderlich 12/8/2008
- Examiner Op-Ed on Transparency and Transition - John Wonderlich 11/21/2008
- Donor Disclosure During the Transition - Paul Blumenthal 11/12/2008
- A Good Time for Transparency - Ellen Miller 11/7/2008