Journalism in the Public Interest


Will Obama Keep Transparency Promises?

Credit: AP/David Guttenfelder

[Update 11.17: Obama just released more details about his proposals on transparency. Here’s a short piece we’ve just posted about them.]

After almost eight years under one of the most secretive administrations in history, open records advocates are hopeful that President-elect Barack Obama will keep his promise to run a transparent presidency. But his record on the issue is not spotless.

I reported in The Dallas Morning News in February that while Obama campaigned for the Democratic bid for the White House he vowed that as president, he would put more information online, including data, legislation and online hearings and meetings.

Sens. Obama and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced legislation in 2006 that created, a Web site that makes information about spending and government contracting public. In June, the two introduced legislation to expand the site to include more information and improve data accuracy. Sen. John McCain, along with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), co-sponsored the legislation.

At a speech on the Google campus in November 2007, Obama said he would use technology to make government more accessible to the public. And make sure the public has access to government information.

Sen. Obama also pushed for and co-sponsored legislation in late 2007 that beefed up the Freedom of Information Act.

Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet pointed out in November that “as a candidate, he still has some ways to go on [the transparency] front himself…Not on Obama’s public schedule today and Tuesday are three high end fund-raisers in northern California.”

And early in his campaign, Sen. Obama told reporters in response to requests that he had no documents from his time in the Illinois Senate.  

And while he served in the state’s Senate, he voted along with the majority of senators for a blanket exemption of all computerized mapping data from the state’s open-record law.

But more recently, Sen. Obama, as well as Republican challenger Sen. McCain, leaned toward greater transparency in government.

“We have a president-elect that really gets it,” said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Reversing the secrecy measures put into place by the George W. Bush administration will not be easy.

“The openness community will expect a complete repudiation of the Ashcroft doctrine,” Davis said, referring to the White House’s decision to be more restrictive in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.   

Davis also said that the many new categories of classification created under the Bush administration that concealed information from the public based on categories such as “sensitive, but unclassified” and “critical infrastructure information” reverts to simply classified or not classified.

“I’m excited, but I’m reasonable, he said. “I’ve been around enough to know that secrecy is a bipartisan disease.”

Why would he start now?  Obama ran one of the most secretive campaigns in recent history.  Many of the documents that would normally be made available were not (i.e. IL Senate schedule, school transcripts, full donor list, full medical records, etc.).  Do not hold your breath that he will be transparant.

I guess all the President must provide their nation Transparency to avoid being accused corrupt or stealing in nations wealth. Legislative department will always be involve since they are the one who will make the bill to order a transparency to the financial department. In state of Idaho the legislative department are well exercise. You know why? Because recently I heard the new about the Center for Responsible Lending. Just by it’s name you know what they’re doing. But did you know that the issue on Center for Responsible Lending is totally against by the state of Idaho for they believe this is group of misnomer people. They’ve been going over two pieces of legislation that would provide regulation on cash advance lenders by mandating licensing of all cash advance lenders. One of the customers of Center for Responsible Lending are those unlicensed lenders like Internet Lending over which the state of Idaho give the right to sue them for practicing such unlicensed lending act. The Idaho would like to convey the idea to regulate the industry in the state and some have the intention of using these bills as stepping-stone to ridding payday loans from the state of Idaho entirely. Good state isn’t it?

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