by Adam Thierer & Berin Szoka
Move over, health care reform, climate change, and the economy. Judging by White House visits by various government agency heads, the Obama administration instead appears preoccupied with the re-regulation of communications, media, and the Internet. The Administration has just released logs of all visitors to the White House and Executive Office Buildings from Obama’s inauguration through August—including a staggering 47 visits by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski. By contrast, no other major agency head logged more than five visits. Chairman Genachowski obviously has an audience with those at the highest levels of power, including the President himself, but this raises questions about just how “independent” this particular regulator and his agency really are.
Unprecedented Transparency by White House
The Administration deserves credit for releasing these visitor logs, which offer unprecedented transparency into the White House’s workings. Unfortunately, the logs lack visitors’ affiliation and title, making it difficult to discern subtle patterns. Furthermore, each entry indicates only one “visitee” and the total number of people involved. Full disclosure requires identifying all meeting participants. Nonetheless, President Obama’s gesture is a great first step toward improved government accountability.
This openness allows us to ask questions we couldn’t pose for previous administrations—such as why the FCC head seems to have unparalleled access to the White House. Lacking data from previous administrations, it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with previous FCC Chairmen, but the sheer number of visits by Chairman Genachowski leaves no doubt about his uniquely close involvement with the White House. Continue reading →