Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Transparency in the Obama White House

Well, not so much, more like opacity.
In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor’s system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.

The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site.

They came to light only because the official paperwork was transmitted to the Federal Register, a dense daily compendium of regulatory actions and other formal notices prepared by the National Archives. They were published there several days after the fact.

A Politico review of Federal Register issuances since Obama took office found three executive orders, one presidential memorandum, one presidential notice, and one proclamation that went unannounced by the White House.

Two of Obama's actions on regulatory reform were spotted by bloggers, lobbying groups and trade publications after they emerged in the Federal Register.

There was no apparent rhyme or reason to the omissions. A proclamation Obama issued on February 2 for African-American History Month was e-mailed to the press and posted on the White House web site. But another presidential proclamation the same day for American Heart Month slipped by.

Such notices were routinely released by the White House press office during prior administrations — making their omission all the more unusual given Obama’s oft-repeated pledges of openness.
The White House said it was an oversight.

One or two proclamations are an oversight. Completely failing to mention a signficant change in the manner in which regularions are reviewed is not an oversight. You don't miss something that big.

You may think bloggers reading the federal register sounds like drudgery, but it is an important publication by the United States.

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