Here’s another one of those stories that, if it had applied to Bush, would be blaring on CNN and zapped around the Internets as an example of the evil machinations of Dick Cheney and allied divisions of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news outfit, details today how the White House is running a wicked scam with its widely touted “visitor logs” releases. In an article in POLITICO,which also appears in partial form on the group’s website, the CPI details how thousands of visits, including numerous gatherings with the president or his senior staff, are either not included in the logs or obscured by deceptive practices.
This is one of those cases where some information is worse than nothing at all.
By providing only the records it wants you to see, the White House offers everyone the false impression of transparency, allowing officials to more effectively hide the meetings they don’t want you to know about. And by suggesting you should be grateful for what you are getting, the White House can more easily rebuff inquiries for the meaty stuff.
Releasing such incomplete White House logs is approximately like noting the ATM withdrawals of a bank robber.
The authors, CPI writers Viveca Novak and Fred Schulte, assert that that “it’s difficult to assess whether a major Obama campaign pledge to limit the influence of lobbyists in his administration has been kept, or if big donors have been given ready access to the White House.”
Here are some of the startling facts from their piece:
- Less than 1 percent of the estimated 500,000 visits to the White House in Obama’s first eight months . . . have been disclosed.
- AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka has been logged in at least four dozen times, often with other labor bigwigs, but the records tell why he was there in only 12 of those cases, and those are mostly ceremonial events or social functions. Twice last year, Trumka met privately with Obama and once with Vice President Joe Biden, the records show, but no details are given.
- Junior White House staff members routinely list themselves as the “visitee,” or person being visited, when in fact the visitor has arrived to see someone higher up the chain of command.
- The practice appears to apply to the commander in chief in some instances. Reggie Love is recorded as receiving nearly 300 visits in the West Wing of the White House. Love is Obama’s personal assistant, the young aide who is constantly at the president’s side. Nearly two dozen campaign fundraisers and their family members are listed as visiting Love. The records give no hint as to who else they saw once they entered the White House or the purpose of their meetings.
- While (former Chief of Staff Rahm) Emanuel is listed as having fewer than 500 visitors . . . three young aides who scheduled meetings for Emanuel — Katherine Kochman, Amanda Anderson and Benjamin Milakofsky — collectively had more than 2,600 visits in their names.
This piece follows an excellent one two months ago by POLITICO‘s own reporters showing that White House staffers were circumventing the logs altogether by meeting with lobbyists at a White House annex. A New York Times article last year had Obama aides huddling with lobbyists off campus at the 17th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. Caribou Coffee shop.
The latest information on the logs should be major scandal, but it won’t be, because MSM reporters will be bought off with statements like this out of the press office, which was included in today’s CPI article.
“The Obama administration has taken unprecedented steps to increase transparency by releasing visitor records from the system each month to provide the American people with more information about their government,” White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said. “No previous White House has ever adopted such a policy,” she said.
Don’t you feel better? It reminds me of the praise they used to heap on Communist countries for their high literacy rates. Of course, what this left out was that after teaching people to read, they then GAVE THEM SOMETHING TO READ.
The White House does indeed pull back the curtain. But like any good documentary maker, it creates the illusion of a factual portrayal by showing you only what it wants you to see.