Under the radar – lobbying the White House

Who can forget how our dear comrade leader excoriated lobbyists during his campaign of “hope and change?” He proclaimed that he would rid the White House of lobbyists and change the “business as usual” in Washington. Well, that was then. To see how well that is working, here’s a list of former lobbyists who are currently working for or advising the regime.

If that weren’t bad enough, the regime is now trying to bury their lobbyist relationships by meeting with them outside of the White House and using personal email accounts for correspondence. (story here from the NY Times)

There are no Secret Service agents posted next to the barista and no presidential seal on the ceiling, but the Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House has become a favorite meeting spot to conduct Obama administration business.

Here at the Caribou on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few other nearby coffee shops, White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists — members of the same industry that President Obama has derided for what he calls its “outsized influence” in the capital.

On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control — and their impact on the lobbyists’ corporate clients.

But 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.”

The off-site meetings, lobbyists say, reveal a disconnect between the Obama administration’s public rhetoric — with Mr. Obama himself frequently thrashing big industries’ “battalions” of lobbyists as enemies of reform — and the administration’s continuing, private dealings with them.

When even the NY Times, an outright shill for the regime, notices, it must be significantly bad. Not only are they holding clandestine meetings outside the White House, but they’re also using personal email accounts to avoid further scrutiny.

Attempts to put distance between the White House and lobbyists are not limited to meetings. Some lobbyists say that they routinely get e-mail messages from White House staff members’ personal accounts rather than from their official White House accounts, which can become subject to public review. Administration officials said there were some permissible exceptions to a federal law requiring staff members to use their official accounts and retain the correspondence.

While this might just be a blip on the radar right now, as this post (from Jake Tapper at ABC News) points out, it won’t go away anytime soon.

On Monday good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked a House committee to look into whether the Obama White House violated federal laws regarding electronic records by using private email accounts to communicate with lobbyists and meeting with lobbyists outside the White House.

CREW wrote a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asking it to investigate and hold hearings to determine any violations of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and Federal Records Act (FRA).

The group’s letter is in response to an article in The New York Times on June 25 that said Obama White House officials have met “hundreds of times” over the last 18 months with prominent Washington lobbyists.

“It is outrageous that White House staff are deliberately using personal email accounts – in violation of the law – to hide the fact that they are in touch with lobbyists,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a paper statement. “This is what all the administration’s anti-lobbyist rhetoric gets you – less transparency. Rather than being open and clear about who is influencing White House policy, the White House is trying to hide who it’s really talking to.  Even worse, the public is being suckered with lofty rhetoric about the evils of the same lobbyists White House officials are meeting with.”

This isn’t the first time CREW has called the Obama White House out for transparency.

After CREW filed a lawsuit last summer to force the President Obama to share White House visitors logs with the public, the White House on September 4 announced its new disclosure policy to regularly make public most of the names of visitors to the White House.

“The most transparent administration in history.” That was our dear comrade leader’s promise. Sounds pretty opaque to me.

How’s that hopey, changey thing working for you?

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