No matter which side you are on, it’s pretty easy to see that the White House’s message of transparency has been, somewhat, well, hard to decipher. Matt Kibbe wrote about a few of the back door deals and the behind the scenes nature of the health care debate.
Despite the transparency rhetoric, promises of an open conversation and a ban on lobbyists in the White House, there have been murky-at-best explanations for documented White House visitors. President Obama pledged not to work with lobbyists. So, naturally, lobbyists just delist, and voila! No more lobbyists in the White House. Which unfortunately, doesn’t make them any less of a lobbyist… just a lot more illegal.
Lobbyists are nothing new. The issue is that for a campaign that ran so vehemently on not working with lobbyists and special interests, they seem to be more than happy to blur the lines when it benefits their cause. But what makes a lobbyist a lobbyist?
The Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) defines a lobbyist as a person who spends more than 20% of their time on “lobbying activities” and has had more then one “lobbying contact”. Pretty simple. What constitutes a “lobbying activity”? Time spent on lobbying contacts, as well as any planning, prep time, research, coordination, and dirt digging. A “lobbying contact” is any communication, oral or written, with federal officials regarding policy modification, formulation and adoption. That goes for legislation, government officials, government contracts, and nominations subject to Senate consent.
Andy Stern, a known lobbyist who delisted in 2007, has taken his share of heat. He appeared on the White House visitor log 22 times last year for meetings with President Obama, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel, and Peter Orzag. News articles also report meetings with House members and Senators.
Apparently not the brightest bulb, Stern also reported his meetings on Twitter. The Alliance for Worker Freedom and Americans for Tax Reform collected tweets from February to June that mention White House meetings, visits with Congressmen, and lobbying with Mayor Bloomberg.
Here is a clip from an interview with Stern:
“I don’t care if I went there once, or if I went there every single day, they would say it’s too much. That’s because they have a different vision of America than the people I work with every day.”
The assumed access to the White House is an incredible display of arrogance. They never thought they would be denied access. This is what happens when everything is negotiable and promises mean nothing. Washington is doing what it wants, and the less we know the better.
Transparency redefined: We’ll actually show you nothing, and then say that the reason nothing is working is because of the Republicans. Those Republicans and their silly “Constitution” and “procedures”. That is all that stands between you and utopia, people.