Obama to Keep White House Visitor List Secret…Just Like Bush

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
(Photo: Erik Kvalsvik, White House Historical Association)

President Barack Obama’s definition of “transparency” apparently doesn’t include revealing the names of business representatives and other individuals who visit the White House. Despite his pledge to make government more open to the public, the Obama administration has decided to continue a court battle that first began during the presidency of George W. Bush to keep White House visitor logs secret.

The government has already lost two rulings by a federal judge in the case involving White House visitor records during the Bush years. That case was still pending when Obama took office, and his Justice Department has been instructed to continue the fight started by Republicans. The Obama administration is arguing that the White House visitor logs are presidential records, and thus not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Both MSNBC.com and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have separately sought access to the visitor logs. MSNBC.com is seeking a complete list of all visitors since Obama took office on January 20, while CREW wants just the names of executives of coal mining companies. On Tuesday, CREW filed a lawsuit to force the administration to release the names.
The Bush administration attached enormous importance to this issue and even went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the names of people who met with Vice-President Dick Cheney’s energy task force in the early months of the Bush presidency. In that case, the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, as part of its inquiry into the Enron scandal, filed suit against Cheney for refusing to turn over his records, the first time in its 80-year history that the GAO had sued the executive branch. Public interest groups on both the left and the right also filed suits in the case. The head of the GAO, David M. Walker, accused the Bush administration of making Cheney the head of the task force for the very reason that he could claim executive privilege and thus avoid congressional oversight. After a four-year court battle, that was exactly what the Supreme Court ruled.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


Linda Grubb 15 years ago
I am very happy that you are keeping us informed. I think it very Orwellian to block WhiteHouse visitor logs. Open records are a must. What are they hiding???

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