Saturday, June 26, 2010

 

Forked tongue department: Obama publicly espouses transparency while practicing the opposite


by Larry Geller

Here at the Caribou [Coffee Shop] on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few other nearby coffee shops, White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists — members of the same industry that President Obama has derided for what he calls its “outsized influence” in the capital.

On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control — and their impact on the lobbyists’ corporate clients.

But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors’ log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the “most transparent presidential administration in history.”

The off-site meetings, lobbyists say, reveal a disconnect between the Obama administration’s public rhetoric — with Mr. Obama himself frequently thrashing big industries’ “battalions” of lobbyists as enemies of reform — and the administration’s continuing, private dealings with them.

[New York Times, Across From White House, Coffee With Lobbyists, 6/24/2010]

Now, if Obama were sincere about transparency, he could easily record and release his coffee-shop trysts as well as his White House visitors list.

“They’re here all the time — all day,” Andre Williams, a manager at Caribou Coffee, said of his White House customers. (He can spot White House officials by the security badges around their necks, or the Secret Service agents lurking nearby.)

Speaking of the official visitors list, the article reports that the actual visitee is obscured by listing the administrative assistant who arranged the meeting instead.

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