ICYMI: The Most Transparent Administration in History?

August 2, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spent much of yesterday dodging questions related to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s report that reveals the Obama administration has repeatedly broken its transparency pledge.

Carney not only avoided questions about off-campus meetings, he failed to account for examples of Obama administration officials intentionally conducting official business on personal email accounts. As highlighted in the committee’s report, Jeff Smith, Senior Advisor to the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), wrote, “On this or any other related subject or policy matter, please continue to communicate with me only on my personal email…” The committee has no record of Smith attempting to preserve this or other emails.

The White House has stonewalled the committee’s numerous attempts to obtain a comprehensive list of off-campus meetings and a copy of emails sent by Obama administration officials conducting official business on private email accounts.



USA TODAY

GOP: Obama aides evading transparency

By: David Jackson

A Republican-run House committee is accusing aides to President Obama of seeking to hide certain contacts through personal e-mails and meetings beyond the White House gates.

One target: Former Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, now manager of President Obama's re-election team.

"Time and again, the Obama administration's actions have failed to match the president's lofty rhetoric on transparency," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Said White House spokesman Jay Carney: "As you know, Republicans have spent a great deal of time and money on investigations which they themselves have characterized as political."

The House report focused on behind-the-scenes negotiations over the health care law, including a deal between the White House and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

"Additional emails reveal that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina used his personal email account on several occasions to conduct official business related to the deal," said the report.

Republicans also cited an e-mail from Jeff Smith, a senior adviser to the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, about an off-campus meeting with a member of the GPS industry:

"Jim -- coffee at Caribou Coffee -- across the corner from the WH -- would work at 11:30 a.m. on Friday…plus getting you through the new WH security rules these days almost takes an act of Congress almost (and you know how well that's going these days)," Smith wrote. "[P]lus you'd appear on an official WH Visitor List which is maybe not want [sic] you want at this stage."

White House officials said Messina, Smith and other officials complied with the law and the administration's transparency rules.

Asked specifically about Messina, Carney said he "had a longstanding personal email account in which he got traffic. In an effort to comply with all the regulations pertaining to emails, he would forward emails to his White House account or copy his White House account so that those emails would be part of presidential record."

To read the article online, click here.



Los Angeles Times

House GOP report questions transparency of Obama White House

By Kim Geiger

House Republicans are accusing President Obama’s White House, and at least one key member of his reelection team, of breaking Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to make the executive branch more transparent.

The accusation is contained in a report, released Tuesday night by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which suggests that White House officials purposefully avoided disclosing key meetings and discussions by moving emails through personal accounts and taking off-campus meetings with lobbyists.

The emails were provided to the committee by a company and a trade association that had lobbied White House officials. Other trade associations, as well as a number of unions, also provided information about their White House meetings.

Republicans have seized on the new information, which was first reported by Politico, as evidence that Obama has reneged on the “no more secrecy” pledge he made in 2008.

"Here we go again,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “The Obama White House is clearly deceiving the American people."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday dismissed the report as a political attack on Obama’s campaign operation, since campaign manager Jim Messina is one of the officials named in the report.

But the heart of Republicans’ outrage comes from email exchanges between Jeff Smith, an official in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Jim Kirkland, an executive of the GPS company Trimble Navigation. Kirkland’s company sought to influence a regulatory decision that could affect GPS receivers.

“Coffee at Caribou Coffee – across the corner from the WH – would work at 11:30 a.m. on Friday,” Smith wrote to Kirkland in a May 9, 2011, email. “Plus getting you through the new WH security rules these days almost takes an act of Congress almost [sic] (and you know how well that’s going these days) plus you’d appear on an official WH visitor list which is maybe not want [sic] you want at this stage.”

White House officials are supposed to conduct all official communications through their work email accounts, but Smith instructed Kirkland to use his personal email instead.

“On this or any other related subject or policy matter, please continue to communicate with me only on my personal email,” Smith wrote.

The report also sheds light on the intense negotiations that took place in the days leading up to passage of Obama’s healthcare bill. It quotes one email exchange in which then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina bragged to the pharmaceutical industry that he was “literally rolling over the House [of Representatives]” in an effort to win extra billions in funding for a deal that had been struck with the drug companies.

“I hope you appreciate when the WH stepped in and said, ‘This is fair. Let’s get this done,’” Messina wrote, via his personal email address, to PhRMA lobbyist Bryant Hill.

Carney said it was not unusual for Messina to receive official emails at his personal address.

“In an effort to comply with all the regulations pertaining to emails, he would forward emails to his White House account or copy his White House account so that those emails would be part of presidential record,” Carney said.

To read the article online, click here.

POLITICO

W.H. declines to address off-site meetings

By: Reid Epstein

President Obama's campaign manager regularly used his personal email account while working in the White House but was diligent in copying his official email address to preserve records of the emails, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

But Carney dodged questions about Messina arranging official meetings at a coffee shop near the White House to avoid having names of who he was meeting with show up on official White House visitor logs.

"Mr. Messina had a longstanding personal email account at which he got traffic," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. "In an effort to comply with all the regulations pertaining to emails, he would forward emails to his White House account, copy his White House account so that those emails would be part of the presidential record."

Asked whether it is standard practice for White House officials to conduct meetings off site, Carney repeatedly said that he had no information.

"I don't have anything on this specific issue," he said.

The Messina emails first surfaced Tuesday evening as part of a report by the GOP-led House Energy and Commerce committee. GOP members alleged that the records show a lack of transparency on the part of the White House, even if they don't show anything illegal.

To read the article online, click here.



BuzzFeed

Jay Carney In 2011: “All Of Our Work Is Conducted On Work Email Accounts”

By: Andrew Kaczynski

A report in Politico says that President Obama's campaigner Jim Messina, used private email address to conduct official White House business, and took meeting with lobbyists at a coffee shop to avoid disclosure. In a 2011 press conference, White House press secretary answering a question about private Google accounts said the White House conducted all emails on work accounts. Carney said today to reporters that Messina would forward his private emails to his public accounts to comply with disclosure laws.

To watch the video, click here.



To read the article online, click here. 


The Washington Times

White House dodging questions about ‘failed’ transparency

By: Susan Crabtree

The White House is dodging questions about whether one of its top aides — Jim Messina, who now serves as President Obama's campaign manager — deliberately skirted disclosure rules, undermining the administration's claim to be "the most transparent administration in history."

A House Energy and Commerce Committee report released Tuesday revealed several emails from senior White House aides sent from private addresses, as well as meetings with lobbyists purposely scheduled off campus to avoid official records.

Mr. Messina, then Mr. Obama's deputy chief of staff, sent several particularly embarrassing emails to a pharmaceutical lobbyist, Politico reported Wednesday.

In one, Mr. Messina promises to "roll" then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, on an agreement between the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Senate Finance Committee on provisions in the president's health care law that Mrs. Pelosi was resisting.

When asked about the use of private emails by top White House staff Wednesday, the president's spokesman Jay Carney said only that Mr. Messina used his personal email account but was diligent in copying his official email address to preserve records of the emails, according to a White House pool account of the exchange.

The Presidential Records Act requires all official communication to be preserved. The Energy and Commerce Committee's report accuses the White House of refusing to verify whether White House aides' preserved emails about official business sent from personal accounts.

Mr. Carney declined to comment about Mr. Messina arranging meetings with lobbyists and others at a coffee shop near the White House to avoid having the names of the people involved show up on White House visitor logs.

"Mr. Messina had a longstanding personal email account at which he got traffic," Mr. Carney told reporters on Air Force One. "In an effort to comply with all the regulations pertaining to the emails, he would forward emails to his White House account, copy his White House account so that those emails would be part of the presidential record."

When asked how common it was for White House officials to hold official meetings off-site to avoid transparency requirements, Mr. Carney repeatedly said he had no information for the reporters.

"I don't have anything on this specific issue," he said.

Mr. Messina's emails not only raise serious questions about efforts to keep certain meetings secret but also put intra-party differences about the president's 2010 health care law into stark relief.

"I will roll [P]elosi to get the 4 billion," Mr. Messina wrote PhRMA lobbyist Jeffrey Forbes from his personal account days before the health care law passed Congress in March 2010. "As you may have heard I am literally rolling over the house. But there just isn't 8-10 billion."

In another email released Tuesday, Jeff Smith, a senior adviser to the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, offers to meet Jim Kirkland, an executive from the GPS industry, off White House grounds. Lightsquared, a wireless communications company backed by several big Democratic donors, battled the GPS industry for control of frequencies close to the band GPS used.

Republicans, including Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio, called for an investigation into whether Lightsquared had received preferential treatment from the Federal Communications Commission because one of its investors had given campaign contributions to Mr. Obama.

"Jim — coffee at Caribou Coffee – across the corner from the WH — would work at 11:30 a.m. on Friday ... plus getting you through the new WH security rules these days almost takes an act of Congress almost (and you know how well that's going these days)," Mr. Smith wrote. "[P]lus you'd appear on an official WH Visitor List which is maybe not want [sic] you want at this stage ..."

To read the entire article online, click here.

For a copy of the committee’s report on transparency, click HERE.

For a copy of the transparency report’s supporting documents, click HERE.

For a copy of the committee's report on closed-door health care negotiations, click HERE.

###