© Miri WTPOTUS August 2, 2012
Doesn’t that look absolutely yummy? That might explain why Obama administration officials prefer to meet lobbyists over steaming cups of cafe latte in a coffee shop across the street from the White House.
But probably not. More likely, they meet there, outside the White House, so that lobbyists, union officials, and other cronies won’t be registered in the open-to-the-public White House Visitor logs. To make matters worse, it appears that this “most transparent” and most “ethical” administration in history has officials who persist in using private email addresses to carry on public business, in what may be an attempt to avoid provisions of the Presidential Records Act.
Even Democrat Representative Henry Waxman of California took issue with Obama and his administration [emphasis added to all quotes]:
“The Presidential Records Act was enacted to ensure that White House records are preserved for history and are owned by the American people,” Waxman said. “Everyone who is covered by the law should follow it, regardless of which party controls the White House.”
The Republicans in the House of Representatives released a report a few days ago that documents a distinct lack of transparency in this administration. Subsequently, the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney opined
that emails between White House officials — including Obama campaign manager Jim Messina — and lobbyists sent from personal email accounts appeared to violate federal laws.
“This appears to be a violation of the law which requires that all official communications be preserved,” Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstom said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. …
The Presidential Records Act requires that all official executive-branch communications — including emails — be archived. …
“I think it’s very troubling that Jim Messina … when he was serving in the White House as a senior aide, made promises to a lobbyist about obtaining billions of dollars in public funds, and he did it using his personal email, which suggests he wanted to hide the conversation,” Fehrnstrom said.
So far, the Republicans don’t seem to be using the word
like the Obama campaign outrageously applies to Mitt Romney, but it’s early in the campaign. While it’s probably not a felony to deliberately evade the Records Act, it still lacks transparency and gives at least the perception that this administration has something to hide.
Oddly enough, there’s no reference in the House report to the president’s use of a Blackberry. Text messages sent via that instrument don’t appear to be archived, although email may be. Still, we must trust them when they say that Obama uses his Blackberry only for personal business.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said [several years ago] … that “a pretty small group of people” — some senior staffers and personal friends — will be permitted to have the e-mail address that reaches Obama’s smartphone. …
He also said that the president reached a compromise to keep his cherished gadget, according to The Associated Press, although Gibbs didn’t say with whom a compromise had been reached.
Gibbs said it is presumed that e-mails will be subject to the Presidential Records Act, a law that requires the National Archives to preserve presidential records.
There’s said to be a system for archiving email sent to and from Obama’s Blackberry, but can we trust that’s true? Consider all the other documents that this administration refuses to release or has simply “lost” or “misplaced” (see the updates at the end of this post).
The House report charges that the Obama administration failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for White House visitors logs for months, despite a court ruling stating that such logs are public records.
Eventually, the White House instituted a “voluntary” disclosure process, but that system did not go back to the beginning of the administration, when key policies were being developed, such as Obamacare (not to mention the bailouts and stimulus programs.) In typical fashion, Obama later went on to take credit for instituting the open visitor logs, which are open only because he was forced to open them to scrutiny.
From other evidence submitted to them, the House committee became aware of many meetings and phone calls related to Obamacare that were not preserved in the public record.
The Obama administration contends that email sent to personal email addresses, instead of to official email addresses, is “copied” to the official accounts. However, it’s an honor system. There’s no way to ensure that this is done faithfully.
The House report also says that conferences that addressed the LightSquared/GPS controversy were apparently deliberately held outside the White House, in order to avoid public disclosure.
The Romney campaign should stay on top of this issue and continue to plug away at the Obama administration. Seems as if they’ve been paying some attention to what people have been saying over the past four years. This is a hopeful sign.
Photo courtesy of Alayna the Extravagant at Wiki Commons.