Journalism in the Public Interest


First Obama Bill Falls Short on Transparency Pledge

Getty ImagesPresident Obama just signed his first bill into law today – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – but in the process, it appears he broke an earlier transparency-related promise.

As we noted before, one of Obama’s pledges on, his transition Web site, was to “not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days.”

But that didn’t happen with the Ledbetter bill. Obama’s had his hands on it for two days, but the first chance Americans got to comment on it on the White House Web site was today, after the president had already signed it into law. We’ve put in calls to the White House and are waiting to hear back for an explanation.

The bill, which was first introduced in the House and Senate three weeks ago, was mentioned in a blog post on the White House Web site on Jan. 25, but it simply pointed out that, hey, here’s a bill coming up, and directed readers to check it out on THOMAS, the government’s legislation-tracking Web site. There wasn’t an opportunity for the public to make comments there either.

Ellen Miller, the executive director of transparency watchdog Sunlight Foundation told ProPublica, “This is a very specific promise that the campaign made that hasn’t been fulfilled.” Noting that she was willing to cut a new administration some slack, she added, “This just strikes me as a day one promise, and they knew this bill was coming down the pipe and that it would be the first one he signed. To not have some system for posting the legislation online is shocking.”

(Ms. Miller serves on ProPublica’s Journalism Advisory Board.)

This isn’t the first time Obama’s hedged on a campaign promise. As we noted this morning, Obama’s assurances that lobbyists “won’t find a job in my White House” haven’t exactly panned out.

It’s good you’re watching Alexandra.  Word to the wise:
If you’re aware that something’s on
(True enough that I myself wasn’t in this case),
then you can always read it and send a comment to
I believe most people who are interested in Obama’s transition
know they can.

Elizabeth Marro

Jan. 29, 2009, 10:20 p.m.

I will be interested in how the administration explains this but I am very willing to give some leeway in the first weeks. I am guessing that moving equal pay forward is critical to some of the important changes needed as new jobs are created under the stimulus package or through other means. And the issue has been aired long and loud in the months just behind us. Finally, how many people are going to object to equal pay for themselves, their wives, daughters or sisters? This was a good move and long overdue.

John Fitzgerald

Jan. 30, 2009, 12:37 a.m.

John Fitzgerald

It is distressing that Obama broke his promise so soon after assuming the presidency. The Fair Pay act has will have a great impact on our busines climate, and considering our economy is a very poor decision