In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor’s system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D’Ivoire.
Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.
The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site.
They came to light only because the official paperwork was transmitted to the Federal Register, a dense daily compendium of regulatory actions and other formal notices prepared by the National Archives. They were published there several days after the fact.
A Politico review of Federal Register issuances since Obama took office found three executive orders, one presidential memorandum, one presidential notice, and one proclamation that went unannounced by the White House.
Two of Obama’s actions on regulatory reform were spotted by bloggers, lobbying groups and trade publications after they emerged in the Federal Register.
There was no apparent rhyme or reason to the omissions. A proclamation Obama issued on February 2 for African-American History Month was e-mailed to the press and posted on the White House web site. But another presidential proclamation the same day for American Heart Month slipped by.
Such notices were routinely released by the White House press office during prior administrations — making their omission all the more unusual given Obama’s oft-repeated pledges of openness.
Most of the documents were posted to the White House web site Tuesday night, after Politico inquired about their absence. “It was a simple oversight,” a spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said.
Ed Morrissey responds:
Another EO halted review of regulations in federal agencies, pending the installation of a new review process. That seems less controversial, as most administrations have their own regulatory procedures. However, since the EO stopped review altogether, transparency would have called for disclosure of that fact and of the EO itself.
Most Transparent Administration Evah? More like the same old, same old.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, railed against a provision [in the stimulus bill] that he said would undermine the independence of watchdog agencies within the government. The bill sets up a new panel, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which has the authority to request “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.”
“Any new limitation on the independence of inspectors general is dangerous,” Grassley said.
Now that’s change you can believe in.