Obama’s Broken Promise for Transparent Government – Study


New questions emerge about President Obama’s promise for open government — in the aftermath of the creepy behavior of Obama Administration officials in the IRS scandal, the snooping on journalists, and the changing stories about their roles in denying aid to four Americans who were killed at Benghazi.



On the first day of the Obama Administration in 2009, the president made a promise about open government.

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails,” Obama told government offices on his first full day as president.

“The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

You don’t believe he’d make this whopper of a broken promise?

Google this headline, “PROMISES, PROMISES: A closed meeting on openness,” and you’ll see 1.45 million results for the Associated Press (AP) headline dated Dec. 6, 2009.

There’s more.

“It’s hardly the image of transparency the Obama administration wants to project: A workshop on government openness is closed to the public,” wrote AP reporter Sharon Theimer regarding the broken Obama commitment on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The law has been on the books since 1966.

Fast-forward to December 2012

A study disclosed that the number of lawsuits filed against federal agencies skyrocketed 28 percent in the last two years of President Obama’s first term compared to the last two years of President Bush’s second term (as indicated in Figure 1 and Tables 1, 2 and 3).

Research by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows there were 562 FOIA lawsuits under Mr. Bush but 720 under Mr. Obama (Figure 1).

Figure 1. FOIA Lawsuits Filed: Bush vs. Obama Administrations FOIA Lawsuits

TRAC, based at Syracuse University, reports the U.S. Department of State under Hillary Clinton had the biggest increase – 111 percent (Table 1).

Ostensibly, few if any of such lawsuits include the outrage over her perceived lack of cooperation in the Benghazi scandal in which four Americans were murdered even after repeatedly asking for protection at the consulate.

Table 1. Organizations with the Highest Growth Rates

Organization

Number of Suits

Percent
Increase

Rank

Bush

Obama

Department of State

18

38

111%

1

U.S. Department of Agriculture

            12

20

67%

2

Department of Veterans Affairs

10

16

60%

3

Environmental Protection Agency

10

16

60%

4

Department of Justice

141

211

50%

5

Social Security Administration

11

16

45%

6

Department of Health and Human Services

29

42

45%

7

Central Intelligence Agency

21

30

43%

8

Department of Defense

65

79

22%

9

Department of Homeland Security

81

93

15%

10

                         

 The study also break downs the numerical increase of the agencies with the most secrets (Table 2).

It’s not surprising that the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder has the dubious honor of being No. 1, especially after the “fast and furious” scandal. That’s the scandal in which the federal government allowed U.S. weapons to reach criminal organizations in Mexico.

Table 2. Organizations with the Greatest Numerical Increase

Organization

Number of Suits

Numerical
Increase

Rank

Bush

Obama

Department of Justice

141

211

70

1

Department of State

18

38

20

2

Department of Defense

65

79

14

3

Department of Health and Human Services

29

42

13

4

Department of Homeland Security

81

93

12

5

Central Intelligence Agency

21

30

9

6

U.S. Department of Agriculture

12

20

8

7

Department of Education

5

12

7

8

Securities and Exchange Commission

2

9

7

8

Department of Veterans Affairs

10

16

6

10

Environmental Protection Agency

10

16

6

10

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

1

7

6

10

There were some agencies that experienced a drop in lawsuits (Table 3).

 

Table 3. Organizations with the Highest Rates of Decline

Organization

Number of Suits

Percent
Decrease

Rank

Bush

Obama

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

3

1

-67%

1

U.S. Small Business Administration

3

1

-67%

1

United States Postal Service

7

3

-57%

3

Department of Transportation

16

7

-56%

4

Merit Systems Protection Board

2

1

-50%

5

Federal Communications Commission

4

3

-25%

6

Treasury

49

38

-22%

7

Federal Trade Commission

5

4

-20%

8

Department of the Interior

31

25

-19%

9

National Archives & Records Administration

6

5

-17%

10

U.S. Department of Labor

15

13

-13%

10

See the full study here.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more public policy articles:

“Bureaucracy always seeks the path of least disclosure.”

– Darrell Evans

 

__________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Thankfully, WA State Officials Listen to WPC – Ask Lawmakers for Transparency

Jan. 12, 2011

 

Washington state legislators have been formally asked to become transparent — to practice accountability for good, open government. The request was in the form of a letter from State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, and Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican.

In fact, Messrs. Sonntag and McKenna have asked lawmakers for a constitutional amendment to improve legislative transparency – actually, it’s an idea from the Washington Policy Center (WPC – www.washingtonpolicy.org).

The Sonntag-McKenna letter states:

“In the spirit of open and accountable government, we support a proposed constitutional amendment to create greater legislative transparency. The attached proposal, recommended by the Washington Policy Center, would prohibit blank bills from being introduced or voted on by the legislature. While the use of ‘title only bills’ is a rare procedure, the public concern substantially justifies eliminating their use entirely. The proposal would also require a minimum time for public notice of bills before a legislative hearing or action on the bill. 

These basic reforms will build the public trust and ensure that government is open and accountable to the public.  Please give your support to this proposed constitutional amendment.”

Accountability and transparency have long been issues in Washington.

“During the 2010 Session lawmakers routinely waived legislative rules requiring five-day notice before holding a bill hearing; provided inadequate notice of the time, location and topic of public hearings; held hearings on bills with no text; and voted on bills the same day details were made publicly available,” wrote Jason Mercier, director for the Center for Government Reform at WPC.

“The rush to vote on the budget and tax bills without allowing meaningful public comment or adequate review time by lawmakers led to mistakes in the bills,” he added.

Actually, the 2010 legislative session was one of only many in which lawmakers ignored the principle of good, open government. That’s why the state has a severe budget crisis. I’ve been warning about these issues for many years.

Appropriately, Mr. Mercier said the WPC makes these specific recommendations:

  1. Require 72-hour public notification before any bill could receive a public hearing
  2. Prohibit title only bills (no public hearing or vote should occur on a “ghost bill”)
  3. Prohibit votes on final passage until the final version of the bill to be approved has been publicly available for at least 24 hours.

Yes, reform is critical. The lack of transparency and good, open government have adversely impacted state businesses, their workers and customers for years. The WPC, and Messrs. Sonntag and McKenna have admirably worked to protect Washingtonians.

Memo to state officials: Please do the right thing.

From the Coach’s Corner, the state’s government needs a fundamental cultural and structural change in the way it conducts its business in order to perform the will of the voters. This Biz Coach business-news portal was designed primarily to provide business-coaching – proven solutions for maximum profits. But a disproportionate number of columns have been necessarily devoted to stop the chicanery of the state’s Legislature and agencies.

As a review, a sample from 2010 includes:

Washington Needs Soul-Searching in Public Policy, Budgeting – and Action

WA Election Reminder: Business Issues to Ponder

How to Alleviate Business Uncertainty in Washington State

Tax Increases Will Cost Washington Businesses, Consumers $6.7 Billion Next 10 Years

Why Not Transparency for Good, Open Government in Washington State?

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.