Walking Away from Transparency, Step Two

by on January 29, 2009 · 30 comments

On the first full day of the new Obama administration, I wrote here, and later followed up, expressing regret that the Obama White House hadn’t ported the “Seat at the Table” program over from the transition. Change.gov published documents submitted to the transition on its Web site for public review and comment. Whitehouse.gov does not.

Now we learn that the White House will not honor an Obama campaign and Whitehouse.gov pledge – not more than nine days old – to post all non-emergency legislation on the White House Web site for five days before the President signs it.

One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

President Obama signed the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009” into law today, one day after Congress delivered it to him. And there’s the bill law, posted on Whitehouse.gov for public review. But it sure hasn’t been up for five days. And it’s not emergency legislation: Bills like it have been floating around in Congress since at least June 2007.

If I was a little demanding about transparency from day one, it was a bit of counterpoint to folks who were going dewy about Obama’s transparency promises. Those were simply words. Judging by the Whitehouse.gov screen cap below, transparency got thrown over the side for a photo op. Welcome to Washington.


Update: Just got an email that helps illustrate why the sound practices of letting legislation cool and taking public comment would go by the wayside. Getting credit from the ACLU is much more important than pleasing the relatively tiny coterie of transparency fans – and there is almost no expectation among the public that a White House should practice good lawmaking hygiene.


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