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Obama’s Coffee House Loophole

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 30, 2010 03:54 AM

The Obama vampires strike again. My latest column focuses on the White House evasion of public disclosure rules through off-site lobbyist meetings at D.C. coffee houses. But first, here are some handy Team Obama transparency-sabotaging reminders for you drawing on Culture of Corruption and the mountain of previous blog posts here that have documented Team Obama’s allergic reaction to sunlight from Day One. Allow me again to say: See, I told you so):

• President Obama broke his transparency pledge with the very first bill he signed into law. On January 29, 2009, the White House announced that the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act had been posted online for review. One problem: Obama had already signed it—in violation of his “sunlight before signing” pledge to post legislation for public comment on the White House website five days before he sealed any deal. “[W]hen there is a bill that ends up on my desk as a president, you the public will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing,” he had vowed. Obama broke the pledge again with the mad rush to pass his trillion-dollar, pork-stuffed stimulus package full of earmarks he denied existed. View his lousy track record here.

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for years fought disclosure of massive donations from foreign governments and corporations who filled her husband’s library and foundation coffers.

• Top Obama advisor David Axelrod ran fear-mongering astro-turf campaigns in support of a huge utility rate hike – and failed to disclose that the ads were funded for Commonwealth Edison in Chicago.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis failed to disclose that she was director and treasurer of a union-promoting lobbying group pushing legislation that she was co-sponsoring.

• Attorney General Eric “The Silent” Holder overruled his own lawyers in the Justice Department over the issue of D.C. voting rights (which he and President Obama support) and refused to make public the staffers’ opinion that a House bill on the matter was unconstitutional. He’s gone on to stonewall on White House job-trading scandals, stonewall on national security questions, and stonewall on the politicized decision to drop a DOJ case against the New Black Panther Party thugs — all while touting a new “Open Plan for Government,” from which he has conveniently exempted himself.

•Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, former King County, Wash. Executive Ron Sims, has the distinction of being the most fined government official in his state’s history for suppressing public records from taxpayers.

•Eco-czar Carol Browner warned auto industry execs to “put nothing in writing…ever.” Who knows how many coffee klatches with energy companies she has had — and who knows how many of them may have ties to her energy lobbyist husband and ethics scandal-tainted Beltway operator Tom Downey.

It’s all been downhill from there, of course. From Cash for Clunkers to the special interest-exempting health care law to the financial bailouts and everything in between, this administration has labored to keep the public in the dark. Good to see even the NYTimes beginning to see the light.

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Obama’s Coffee House Loophole
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2010

President Obama is finally uniting the left and the right — in joint opposition to his administration’s chronic sabotage of transparency and public disclosure rules. It won’t be long before liberals disillusioned by Dear Leader’s reveal-as-we-say-not-as-we-conceal policies link arms with me and join in on my 2-year-old chant: Obama lied, transparency died.

Watchdog groups and Republicans on Capitol Hill want an investigation into hundreds of White House meetings with corporate lobbyists at D.C. coffee houses. K Street influence peddlers told The New York Times last week that they’ve met routinely with Team Obama officials over the past 18 months to discuss policy matters — at Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, even on a side lawn — with the express purpose of circumventing the public’s right to know.


Graphic via Libertymanics/Zazzle

The Coffee House Ruse comes on top of the latest confession of White House non-disclosure from ex-Big Labor heavy Patrick Gaspard, Obama’s chief domestic policy adviser, who failed to report a $40,000 pension payment from his old employer, the Service Employees International Union in New York. If they keep this up, sunlight-avoiding Obama officials will soon be cast as the next “Twilight” vampires.

“Lobbyists say some White House officials will agree to an initial meeting with a lobbyist and his client at the White House,” the Times’ once-zealous champions of Obama reported, “but then plan follow-up sessions at a site not subject to the visitors’ log.” Said one financial lobbyist who has met more than a half-dozen times off-campus with White House officials: “I’ll call and say, ‘I want to talk to you about X,’ and they’ll say, ‘Sure, let’s talk at Starbucks.’”

You see: When Obama promised to “change the way Washington works,” what he really meant was changing where the usual Beltway backroom wheelers and dealers do their business. And when he talked about changing the “culture” in the nation’s capitol, what he really meant was just changing titles.

In addition to carving out the Coffee House loophole and using personal e-mail accounts to communicate with the influence industry, White House officials have been advising lobbyists looking for administration jobs to de-register — shedding their K Street status — to get around Obama’s vaunted lobbyist hiring ban. With more than 40 ex-lobbyists working in the administration, Obama’s no-lobbyists executive order already has more holes in it than a moth-eaten crocheted sweater.

The self-puffery of the double-talker-in-chief on disclosure ethics is inversely proportional to the amount of real transparency he has delivered. In January, irked by criticism of private health care meetings with Big Labor cronies at the Oval Office, Obama lectured Americans that “it is important to know that the promises we made about increased transparency we’ve executed here in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” His legal counsel trumpeted the release of more than 25,000 White House visitor logs (many incomplete, vague and useless) as “a milestone in the president’s commitment to change Washington. The president believes that this and our many other transparency initiatives promote accountability and keep American democracy vital.” While Obama’s cabinet engaged in the same old precedented meetings with lobbyists, his propagandists patted themselves on the back for providing unprecedented access to ordinary Americans:

“We are excited about the visitor records policy not only because we are breaking new ground for this administration but also because we are establishing a new standard for all future administrations. We know of no comparable initiative in the history of the White House.”

Puff, puff, puff. The Obama administration’s incomparable hype and hypocrisy have at last proved too much for good-government liberals. Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate and hold hearings on the Coffee House loophole. CREW head Melanie Sloan lambasted the Democratic White House: “This is what all the administration’s anti-lobbyist rhetoric gets you — less transparency. Rather than being open and clear about who is influencing White House policy, the White House is trying to hide who it’s really talking to. Even worse, the public is being suckered with lofty rhetoric about the evils of the same lobbyists White House officials are meeting with.”

Now that citizen activists are staking out D.C. caffeine hot spots, the White House/special-interest trysts may soon be headed to Washington street corner hot dog stands and taquerias. Keep your eyes and ears open. The next cap-and-tax exemption or stimulus slush fund may be hammered out in a public restroom stall or on a Metro subway seat next to you.

On the upside, coffee-gate is rousing slow-learning Americans from their Obama-as-Messiah stupor. The best part of waking up is reality in your cup.

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