The Obama Administration’s “Open Government” Empty Rhetoric

Liberal “open government” advocates are giving the president a medal for supposedly promoting “government transparency.”  He shares their liberal ideology, but not their alleged commitment to transparency. In reality, President Obama is so hostile to open government that “the Obama administration censored 194 pages of internal e-mails about its Open Government Directive,” according to the Associated Press. For example, “it blacked-out one e-mail discussing how to respond to AP’s request for information about the transparency directive.”

Moreover, “the Obama administration has developed a reputation for ruthlessly prosecuting whistleblowers for leaks to the press.” It recently demoted a whistleblower who revealed to Congress how the Department of Homeland Security was violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The administration discriminates in responding to requests for documents under FOIA. It illegally forces its critics to wait years for the documents to which they are entitled — well beyond the 20-day legal deadline for responding — or refuses to even respond to their requests for documents. Meanwhile, it gives many of its supporters the documents they seek in just a few days.  These are just a few of the ways that Obama has broken his promise to have the most transparent administration in history.

The Obama administration repeatedly stonewalled the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, illegally refusing to comply with its subpoenas for information about why the Obama administration dismissed a lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party in a high-profile voter-intimidation case, after career Justice Department lawyers had already won that lawsuit by default. It also refused to comply with freedom-of-information requests by watchdog groups investigating that case.

The administration responded to FOIA requests the very day they came in when those requests came from its ideological allies, like Edward DuBose, president of Georgia NAACP; Kristen Clarke and Jenigh Garrett of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and liberal ideologues Gary Hebert and Fred McBride.

But it never even responded to FOIA requests from right-leaning individuals like “Jim Boulet of the English First Foundation” and GOP lawyer Jason Torchinsky, notes former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams at Pajamas Media.

People who sought the same type of documents waited radically different amounts of time based on whether they shared the Obama administration’s ideology. “For example, Republican election attorney Chris Ashby of LeClair Ryan made a request for the records of five submissions made under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Ashby waited nearly eight months for a response. Afterwards, Susan Somach of the “Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda,” a group headed by Rev. Joseph Lowery, made requests for 23 of the same type of records. While Ashby waited many months for five records, Somach waited only 20 days for 23 records.”

I can attest to the Obama administration’s contempt for open government from personal experience. In May 2010, I requested documents about the government’s bailout of General Motors. I have never received any of the documents I listed in my FOIA request, or even any indication about whether the government will ever produce any of those documents.

Obama’s campaign promise to have the most transparent administration in history is not the only campaign promise he has violated. He has also violated many other campaign promises, like his pledge of a “net spending cut,” which he immediately flouted after the election through record spending increases and trillions in deficit spending.