Open Government Directive—But What About Sunlight Before Signing?

by on December 8, 2009 · 3 comments

The White House announces its open government plans today, live at 11:00 am Eastern, on

But what about the president’s promise to run his own White House more transparently? In a post on Cato@Liberty this morning, I look into a new development on the Sunlight Before Signing promise, which he has violated more than 100 times since taking office.

At some point earlier this year, the White House began posting links on to bills that were heading its direction, a half-measure the White House told the New York Times it would take.

I failed to notice the existence of these pages, but I think it is forgivable error. There is no uniform structure to them, and there is no link I can discover on that would bring anyone to them.

Based on my spot-checking, they haven’t been crawled by any search engine, so the only way a person could find them is by searching on for phrases on the yet unseen pages or by searching the House or Senate bill numbers of bills that you know to look for because they have already passed into law.

This doesn’t fulfill the spirit of the Sunlight Before Signing pledge. It doesn’t give the public an opportunity to review final bills and comment before the president signs them. I doubt if a single one of the people who cheered when President Obama made his Sunlight Before Signing pledge has visited one of these pages and commented to the president as he told them they would be able to do.

There are further curiosities: The pages themselves are undated, but their “posted” dates, which appear in search results, are sometimes well beyond the date on which they became law. A search for H.R. 2131, which became Public Law 111-70 on October 9th, shows that it was posted for comment on October 23rd.

Is the White House posting bills for review after they’ve become law, trying to make it look like they’re providing some measure of sunlight?

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