I’ve obtained documents sent to a reader in response to his FOIA request regarding the creation of Barack Obama’s Change.gov website. It gives you the rest of the story. You’ll recall last month that I blogged several questions about the propriety of allowing the perpetual Obama campaign to use a .gov domain name for what appeared to be a fund-raising front. Readers and industry observers noted that the decision appeared to violate General Services Administration rules governing government domains.
Guess what? They were right. The FOIA documents sent to Lance O., which he forwarded to me, reveal that the GSA initially rejected Obama’s application for “Change.gov.” On Oct. 21, Peter Alterman, Deputy Associate Administrator of Technology Strategy at the GSA, denied the Obama campaign’s request for a government domain because:
1) It would be a a violation of the government’s naming conventions (too generic); and
2) using ‘change’ in the domain name would be political, since it was the trademark slogan of the Obama campaign.
The day after the election, on Nov. 5, GSA Chief Information Officer Casey Coleman overruled Alterman after apparently receiving a waiver from Chris Lu, Executive Director of Obama’s Transition Project. As reader Lance discovered through his FOIA request, Ms. Coleman did not elaborate on the granting of this waiver except to say that she had “determined that it is in the best interest of the Federal Government to register the subject domain name.”
As another GSA official who facilitated the convenient change in policy regarding change.gov exulted to the Obama campaign after the domain was granted, “Rock and roll!”
Thanks to reader Lance for filing the FOIA request and giving us a peek into the GSA bureaucracy for change.
Here’s the initial denial:
Here’s Obama transition director Chris Lu’s waiver request:
Here’s GSA internal email discussing the decision to proceed with the domain main conferral. And yes, that does say “Rock and roll!:”
Here’s the notice of an official GSA point of contact being assigned to the domain on Nov. 5 and a determination that it’s in the “best interest of the federal government” to register change.gov:
And here are internal notes and public feedback records by GSA showing the change in policy and attitude:
From a concerned citizen, who wrote GSA:
Yes, apparently he was mistaken. The strict rules do not apply when you invoke CHANGE.
And now you know…the rest of the story.
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