Why Are Lobbyists Being Kept Away From White House?

Lobbyists feel snubbed by private meetings in off-site locations--bloggers, meanwhile, see hypocrisy

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The Obama White House isn't crazy about lobbyists, and lobbyists apparently aren't crazy about that. Bloggers, meanwhile, find the whole thing hypocritical.

To the Obama folks, a meeting with a lobbyist is like a date you take to a hidden Chinese restaurant where you're guaranteed not to run into anyone you know. Meetings between White House aides and lobbyists are held off-site, sometimes at a nearby complex of row houses, other times at a Caribou Coffee. Politico's Chris Frates reports that logs aren't kept at these meetings, but some lobbyists have recently been asked "to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from disclosing what was discussed at meetings with administration officials."

According to Frates, "lobbyists are particularly stung by what they see as a double standard, with Obama bashing their profession as part of what's wrong with Washington while his staff routinely sits down with lobbyists to discuss key issues." While some lobbyists are hurt by what they think is a politically-motivated snub, others, like immigration lobbyist Tamar Jacoby, are just happy to have any face time with a White House staffer to promote their agenda. Jacoby told Politico, "The most important thing, for all the prohibitions, is that they're realizing that you can't govern in America without a.), getting the input of experts and b.), getting in touch with the business community. No matter how they do that, whether it's on the up-and-up or off-the-charts, so to speak, the important thing is that they know that they have to do it."

Bloggers, though, are questioning the White House's motivation for hiding lobbyists. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, takes the Politico story as proof that her skepticism of Obama's transparency pledge was warranted. "Obama lied, transparency died," she writes. "See, I told you so." Red State's Erick Erickson is also not surprised, but curious as to with whom Obama's staff is actually meeting. "We know the White House is happy to have routine visits from the AFL-CIO and SEIU. And if they want those to be known, who exactly are they ashamed of you knowing about? Or scared?" he asks. Of the secrecy, Thomas Ferdousi at Pundit Press writes, "there's something Nixon-esque here."

The Texas Insider
also points out that this is not the first time the White House has been busted circumventing it's own transparency promise. It notes that such instances in which the Administration has avoided "public scrutiny of their actions [do] not speak well to its ability to operate with the unmatched level of transparency, participation and accountability promised by the President."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.