Yesterday’s news that then White House Senior Staffer Jim Messina used his personal email to conduct official business to evade disclosure is another nail in the coffin of President Obama’s promise to be “the most transparent administration in history.” This revelation is on top of the hundreds of meetings that Obama administration officials have had at coffee shops around the city like the Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House and other locations so the meetings could stay off the books and hidden from the public. President Obama promised there would be no lobbyists in the White House—a promise that doesn’t cover the coffee shop across the street.
RNC Drills White House On 'Caribou' Meetings. POLITICO: “RNC chairman Reince Priebus slammed the White House on a conference call this afternoon, after POLITICO's story on a House Energy and Commerce Committee report that revealed Obama administration officials using personal - and therefore not FOILable - emails to negotiate key issues like the health care reform bill language. ‘The self proclaimed most transparent administration in history isn't the most transparent (after) all,’ Priebus said, referring to meetings then-deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina had at a Caribou coffee off-site from the White House. ‘Here we go again..the Obama White House is clearly deceiving the American people.’ He pointed out that Obama ‘said he was going to be different than everybody else’ - a theme that Republicans have hit repeatedly, as it plays into the disappointment meme about the president who was elected on a message of hope and change. http://politi.co/OEfLZx
White House Dodging Questions About ‘Failed’ Transparency. Washington Times: “The White House is dodging questions about whether one of its top aides — Jim Messina, who now serves as President Obama's campaign manager — deliberately skirted disclosure rules, undermining the administration's claim to be ‘the most transparent administration in history.’ A House Energy and Commerce Committee report released Tuesday revealed several emails from senior White House aides sent from private addresses, as well as meetings with lobbyists purposely scheduled off campus to avoid official records. Mr. Messina, then Mr. Obama's deputy chief of staff, sent several particularly embarrassing emails to a pharmaceutical lobbyist, Politico reported Wednesday. In one, Mr. Messina promises to ‘roll’ then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, on an agreement between the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Senate Finance Committee on provisions in the president's health care law that Mrs. Pelosi was resisting…Mr. Carney declined to comment about Mr. Messina arranging meetings with lobbyists and others at a coffee shop near the White House to avoid having the names of the people involved show up on White House visitor logs.” http://bit.ly/M5QExL
GOP Hits Obama On Lobbyist Meetings At ‘Caribou.’ ABC News: “In an election-year effort to cast President Obama as a ‘typical politician,’ Republicans are highlighting the administration’s alleged hypocrisy on transparency in holding meetings with lobbyists off White House grounds in order to keep them secret. While the meetings have been extensively reported before by ABC News and the New York Times, a new report published Tuesday by House Republicans exposed a raft of email messages between industry lobbyists and Obama administration officials deliberately making plans to rendezvous off-site to avoid detection. In several cases, the officials’ messages were sent from non-governmental, personal email accounts, which Republicans allege was intended to keep the correspondence from the public record… In a new web video and conference call with reporters, the Republican National Committee blasted President Obama, who pledged to make his administration the most transparent in history. ‘The Obama White House is actively deceiving the American people and they are doing it over a Caribou latte,’ RNC chairman Reince Priebus told reporters, referring to the coffee shop where many of the undisclosed meetings with lobbyists occurred. ‘This President does not want the American people to know who they are meeting with on a day-to-day basis,’ Priebus said. ‘They have had many meetings at coffee houses, so we have no way of knowing what insider deals they are cutting with lobbyists with tax payers’ money.’” http://abcn.ws/QiqVTs
GOP: W.H., Messina ‘Failed’ On Transparency. POLITICO: “House Republicans are accusing the Obama White House — and the president’s reelection campaign manager Jim Messina — of purposefully skirting disclosure rules and negating the administration’s often-repeated claim to be ‘the most transparent administration in history.’ A House Energy and Commerce Committee report out Tuesday is stocked with emails sent from private addresses and meetings scheduled away from the building to avoid official record. Among these are several sent to a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist by Messina, then President Barack Obama’s then-deputy White House chief of staff, making promises about language for the health care reforms despite the resistance of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the measure. ‘I will roll [P]elosi to get the 4 billion,’ Messina wrote Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbyist Jeffrey Forbes from his personal account just days before the Affordable Care Act cleared Congress in March 2010. ‘As you may have heard I am literally rolling over the house. But there just isn’t 8-10 billion.’ The note related to the official business regarding an agreement reached by the Senate Finance Committee and PhRMA on the president’s health care law. Pelosi’s office referred to previous statements in which she declined to address the deal between the administration and PhRMA.” http://bit.ly/M5PiTO
GOP: Obama Aides Evading Transparency. USA Today: “A Republican-run House committee is accusing aides to President Obama of seeking to hide certain contacts through personal e-mails and meetings beyond the White House gates. One target: Former Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, now manager of President Obama's re-election team. ‘Time and again, the Obama administration's actions have failed to match the president's lofty rhetoric on transparency,’ said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., of the House Energy and Commerce Committee…The House report focused on behind-the-scenes negotiations over the health care law, including a deal between the White House and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. ‘Additional emails reveal that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina used his personal email account on several occasions to conduct official business related to the deal,’ said the report. Republicans also cited an e-mail from Jeff Smith, a senior adviser to the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, about an off-campus meeting with a member of the GPS industry: ‘Jim -- coffee at Caribou Coffee -- across the corner from the WH -- would work at 11:30 a.m. on Friday…plus getting you through the new WH security rules these days almost takes an act of Congress almost (and you know how well that's going these days),’ Smith wrote. "[P]lus you'd appear on an official WH Visitor List which is maybe not want [sic] you want at this stage.’” http://usat.ly/OHApYL
President Obama Attacked By GOP For Failing To Meet His Own Ethics Standards. The Huffington Post: “A new report from House GOP documenting instances in which President Barack Obama's White House conducted business with an eye towards secrecy has exposed the president to charges that he has failed to meet his own ethical standards. On Tuesday evening, House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans released a report showing emails sent from top administration officials -- including Jim Messina, the former deputy chief of staff who is now Obama's campaign manager -- to pharmaceutical industry officials from private email accounts. In addition, the report highlighted instances in which those same officials held meetings away from the White House so that they wouldn't be recorded in the official visitor logs. ‘These are stunning revelations,’ Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, said in a conference call for reporters on Wednesday. ‘The Obama White House is actively deceiving the American people and they are doing it over a Caribou latte.’ The image of White House aides kibitzing over lattes (as opposed to regular coffee) with lobbyists is politically rich. But while the names involved were new, the news itself was old. The Caribou meetings had been reported in June 2010. And when the story first surfaced, the RNC was just as critical.” http://huff.to/ODAvxj
RNC Chief: WH Aide Huddles May Be Illegal. UPI: “A top U.S. Republican called for a ‘full-scale’ probe to see if the Obama administration broke the law by holding back-channel meetings outside the White House. ‘We need to have a full-scale investigation so that we can in fact determine whether or not, under the facts and circumstances, that we have a crime,’ Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters in a conference call the RNC arranged after a GOP-controlled House subcommittee report accused the White House of breaking its own transparency rules. House Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who released the report Tuesday with other Republicans on his panel, said in the call the report did not allege illegal activity, but did indicate the administration fell far short of its transparency promises. He said he wouldn't say more about possible illegality until the White House turned over more documents. He did not say what documents he wanted. Priebus said the Obama administration may have violated the 1978 Presidential Records Act mandating the preservation of all presidential records.” http://bit.ly/QzhgqZ
Republicans Seeking To Drive Transparency Criticism Against Obama. CNN: “Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus alleged on a Wednesday conference call organized for reporters that the Obama Administration was ‘failing follow the law under the Presidential Records Act.’ Priebus and Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Republican who chairs the oversight subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, based their claims on a report published Tuesday by Stearns and other Republicans on his committee which juxtaposes news reports with White House statements on transparency. They charged the Obama Administration - including Obama's campaign manager, who was previously a top White House official - was skirting the records preservation law and creatively reneging on their own transparency pledges…Priebus saw the emails differently, saying on a conference call the RNC organized for reporters that the ‘stunning revelations... show the Obama Administration has not only found loopholes in their own self-imposed transparency rules, they're also failing to follow the law under the Presidential Records Act…They [the Obama administration] have been using the Caribou Coffee shop across the street from the White House as an executive branch annex to hold secretive meetings with lobbyists and political cronies…So we have no way of knowing what insider deals they're cutting with lobbyists with taxpayer money,’ he charged.” http://bit.ly/OJZEs7
RNC Chair Assails WH Transparency, Punts On Romney's Own Standards. NBC News: “Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus demanded a "full-scale investigation" into the Obama administration's record-keeping, but punted on the question of whether Mitt Romney, as president, should maintain some of the same disclosure policies put into place by President Obama. Priebus assailed the Obama White House for details included in a report authored by Republicans on Capitol Hill, which accused the administration of failing to live up to the standards of transparency set for itself, and accused Jim Messina -- the president's campaign manager -- of trying to avoid disclosure laws. ‘It's time for a full-scale investigation ... The Obama White House is actively deceiving the American people, and they're doing it over a Caribou latte,’ Priebus said on a conference call with reporters, referencing an alleged informal policy of White House officials to meet at a nearby Caribou Coffee in order to avoid having those liaisons appear on White House visitor records.” http://nbcnews.to/Nbhb9e
Obama's 2008 Campaign Booklet Promises Transparency And Accountability. Buzzfeed: “President Obama and the White House have come under for fire for a report they used private email address and met at coffee houses with lobbyists to avoid disclosure. In 2008, the President Obama promised his White House would have transparency, accountability, and curb the the influence of lobbying by special interests in his official campaign literature.” http://bit.ly/OI2dwi
Jay Carney In 2011: "All Of Our Work Is Conducted On Work Email Accounts." Buzzfeed: “A report in Politico says that President Obama's campaigner Jim Messina, used private email address to conduct official White House business, and took meeting with lobbyists at a coffee shop to avoid disclosure. In a 2011 press conference, White House press secretary answering a question about private Google accounts said the White House conducted all emails on work accounts. Carney said today to reporters that Messina would forward his private emails to his public accounts to comply with disclosure laws.” http://bit.ly/OrORjL
GOP Wants Investigation Of Obama Administration Meetings Outside White House. Daily Caller: “The chairman of the Republican National Committee said Wednesday there should be an investigation to determine whether Obama administration officials are breaking the law by intentionally holding meetings outside the White House to keep them off visitor logs. ‘We need to have a full-scale investigation so that we can in fact determine whether or not, under the facts and circumstances, that we have a crime,’ RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in an afternoon conference call with reporters. Priebus made the comments in response to a report released Tuesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that included records showing administration officials taking official meetings to a nearby coffee house. ‘They’ve been using the Caribou Coffee shop across the street from the White House as an executive branch annex to hold secretive meetings with lobbyists and political cronies,’ Priebus said. Added the chairman: ‘These newly covered emails showed one White House staffer explicitly asking an industry insider to meet him at Caribou so that he wouldn’t have to appear on the White House visitor logs.”’ Priebus also said officials may have broken the law by using a personal email account to conduct business.” http://thedc.com/NUzaTz
Top 10 Ways White House Avoids Transparency. Breitbart:“The House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report Tuesday which details some of the ways in which the Obama White House has side-stepped its promise to be transparent in the way it conducts business. This means it's a good time to review some of the many ways the Obama administration avoids transparency even after promising to be the most transparent administration in history
- Fighting FOIA - In early 2009 the White House refuses to respond to FOIA requests for visitor logs leading Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to file a lawsuit to obtain the logs. CREW's legal council tells the Washington Post "I don't see how you can keep people from knowing who visits the White House and adhere to a policy of openness and transparency."
- Transparency begins...sort of - In early September 2009 the White House agrees to fulfill the FOIA requests and begins making White House visitor logs available online in return for CREW dropping its lawsuit. This settlement exempts all visitor logs prior to September 15, 2009. The House Committee report says that "less than one percent of the approximately 500,000 meetings from President Obama’s first eight months in office...have been released."
- White House Omits Names of Famous Visitors - Politico reported in April 2011 that celebrities who visited the White House including Bob Dylan and Joan Baez" were not listed in the visitor logs. Similarly, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were never listed in the logs though they attended a fancy Halloween party at the White House. Analysis by the Center for Public Integrity finds that "lobbyists, government employees, campaign donors, policy experts and friends of the first family" are also omitted from the logs.
- Coffee with Lobbyists - In a direct attempt to avoid reporting on lobbyist visits to the Obama White House, hundreds of lobbyists meetings are held at nearby coffee shops. The NY Times reports that "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.'” http://bit.ly/T4G76u
Obama Hit Bush For Secrecy, Promised To Be Transparent As President. Buzzfeed: “Obama in 2008:"The fact that lobbyist and special interests have been so dominant in how Washington works" has contributed to the American people don't think they know what's going....I want transparency. I want accountability." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_yxZXyUavE&feature=player_embedded
Obama in 2008:"On the whole issue of transparency this has been the most secretive administration maybe in our history. I mean, they won't let you know what's going on on anything." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkl0jYKIN1I&feature=player_embedded
W.H. Declines To Address Off-Site Meetings. POLITICO: “President Obama's campaign manager regularly used his personal email account while working in the White House but was diligent in copying his official email address to preserve records of the emails, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. But Carney dodged questions about White House officials arranging official meetings at a coffee shop near the White House to avoid having names of who he was meeting with show up on official White House visitor logs. ‘Mr. Messina had a longstanding personal email account at which he got traffic,’ Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. ‘In an effort to comply with all the regulations pertaining to emails, he would forward emails to his White House account, copy his White House account so that those emails would be part of the presidential record.’ Asked whether it is standard practice for White House officials to conduct meetings off site, Carney repeatedly said that he had no information, ‘I don't have anything on this specific issue,’ he said. http://politi.co/N5aeb8
Republicans Say Obama WH Violated Transparency Law. Washington Times: “President Obama’s aides have violated a transparency law by conducting official business on their personal email accounts and meeting lobbyists at private locations, Republican officials said today. “[These emails] show the Obama Administration has not only found loopholes in their own self-imposed transparency rules, they’re also failing to follow the law under the Presidential Records Act,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on a conference call with reporters. “If you are using your personal email account to forward to yourself to and from the White House to make multi-billion dollar deals with lobbyists using tax payer money, don’t you think something smells a little funny here?” He added that “we need to have a full-scale investigation so that we can in fact determine whether or not . . . we have a crime.’ Priebus was referring to an email that current Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote to a pharmaceutical lobbyist when he was working in the White House during the Obamacare negotiations. ‘I will roll [P]elosi to get the 4 billion,’ Messina wrote from his personal email. ‘As you may have heard I am literally rolling over the house. But there just isn’t 8-10 billion.’” http://bit.ly/NLKZOL
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