Free Markets, Free People

lobbyists

Obama’s Transparency

President Obama went after Washington lobbyists in a big way last night, blaming them for what ails America in a major portion of his State of the Union speech.

In his State of the Union on Wednesday, Obama once again targeted K Street: “We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.”

But that was yesterday. Today his administration reached out to those same lobbyists to help pass Obama’s agenda:

A day after bashing lobbyists, President Barack Obama’s administration has invited K Street insiders to join private briefings on a range of topics addressed in Wednesday’s State of the Union.

The Treasury Department on Thursday morning invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.” …

The invitation stated, “The White House is encouraging you to participate in these calls and will have a question and answer session at the end of each call. As a reminder, these calls are not intended for press purposes.”

Like a secret mistress, K-Streeters are not exactly thrilled with Obama demonizing them in public and then requesting their expertise behind closed doors:

Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.

One lobbyist said, “Bash lobbyists, then reach out to us. Bash lobbyists [while] I have received four Democratic invitations for fundraisers.”

[…]

Lobbyists say the Obama White House has held many off-the-record teleconferences over the past year.

For example, lobbyists and others were invited to a teleconference with “senior Obama administration officials” on Monday to discuss the administration’s plan to improve the lives of middle-class families.

The invitation, which is addressed to “Friends,” emphasizes in bold and italics that “this call is for background information only and not intended for press purposes.” It advises callers to tell the operator “you’re joining the ‘White House Briefing Call.’ ”

Another lobbyist said these types of teleconferences occur “all the time.”

And that is why many on K Street are exasperated with Obama’s use of lobbyists as a punching bag. Some have said they understood why he used strong rhetoric on the campaign trail but are irritated the White House solicits their opinions while Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations.

That politicians court special interests is nothing new, nor is their blatant prevarication and hypocrisy when it comes to claiming to “work for the people.” Yet publicly targeting specific groups for opprobrium in order to drum up public support, and then immediately running to that very same group for their help, is a whole special class of slimy. Who is it, exactly, that Obama thinks he’s backstabbing? The electorate? The lobbyists? Indeed, why should anyone trust him at all? And all of this in the name of transparency.

Judging by his actions, Obama thinks “transparency” means “clearly lying”.

The Transparent Administration – Part II

I noted the other day that the Obama administration was hiding its revised budget numbers from the public until August. Obviously, in light of the push to pass health care legislation, they don’t want anymore bad news out there than the CBO has already delivered. And, of course, there’s no doubt that had the news been good, they’d have fallen all over themselves to publish it.

That brings us to our “transparency” moment today. This will probably ring a familiar bell:

Obama administration officials have rejected a watchdog group’s request for a list of healthcare industry executives who’ve been meeting secretly in the White House with Obama staffers to discuss healthcare changes being drafted there and in Congress.

According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is suspicious of the influence of health industry lobbyists and company officers, it received a letter from the Secret Service citing an Obama Justice Department directive and denying access to visitor logs under the “presidential communications privilege.”

Sound familiar?

Of course it does. But since Darth Cheney and the evil oil executives weren’t involved, my guess is it will hardly make a ripple among lefty critics of the Bush administration.

Promises, promises, this guy was all about promises, remember?

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.

But you know, the new guy would never do that. He promised!

And you remember the criticism from Democrats and the left about Bush and his signing statements?  Well, guess what?

Congressional Democrats warned President Barack Obama on Tuesday that he sounded too much like George W. Bush when he declared this summer that the White House can ignore legislation he thinks oversteps the Constitution.

In a letter to the president, four senior House members said they were “surprised” and “chagrined” by Obama’s statement in June accompanying a war spending bill that he would ignore restrictions placed on aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The rebuff was reminiscent of Bush, who issued a record number of “signing statements” while in office. The statements put Congress on notice that the administration didn’t feel compelled to comply with provisions of legislation that it felt challenged the president’s authority as commander in chief.

Democrats, including Obama, sharply criticized Bush for his reliance on the statements. Obama said he would use them sparingly and only if authorized by the attorney general.

Hope and change.

~McQ