Another blow to transparency in Washington

March 17, 2015 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

Despite promises to be “the most transparent administration in history,” the Obama White House continues to show it isn’t.

It is formally shelving a federal regulation that requires the Office of Administration be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  This allows the President to reject requests for records from the media and the public. What makes this particularly ironic is the move was announced on National Freedom of Information Day during Sunshine Week—an annual commemoration by news organizations to support and promote government transparency.

To be clear, the Obama administration (as well as President Bush before him) did not fulfill  FOIA requests for emails and other information, based on earlier federal court rulings that the Office of Administration was not bound by the rules because it “lacks substantial independent authority” needed to make it subject to FOIA.
 
The administration says its action is merely designed to bring its practices in line with the current court rulings--nothing more. White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine is quoted in a published report as saying the Obama administration remains committed “to work toward unprecedented openness in government.”

To RTDNA, it certainly doesn’t seem so. As we have noted in this column many times before, it appears to us the President continues to move in the other direction when it comes to government transparency. With the current controversy swirling regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, it becomes even more important that records be opened to someone else other than the person who wrote them.

RTDNA is a partner in the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a group of media organizations working hard to further the goal of impacting legislation to improve the FOIA.  It is sometimes an arduous effort, but one that is absolutely necessary.  Democracy works best when there is a series of checks and balances on those who make, administer and enforce the laws.  Letting more of the sunshine in on these decisions is something we all can—and must—get behind!