Obama on Transparency in Government Take Two


Two months ago, Sen. Barack Obama laid out his plan to make the executive branch more transparent and accountable to the American people. Ellen wrote a blog post then which both acknowledged the importance of a major Presidential candidate putting transparency on the agenda and pushed for an even more active transparency agenda. Yesterday in Iowa, Sen. Obama reiterated his transparency agenda while adding a bit more to it.

The biggest new announcement in Obama’s agenda is that, as President, he would post all lobbyist meetings with government agencies online. There is no word on how this would be done – on each individual agency site or through a master database. Posting lobbyist meetings with government agencies would mark a huge shift in the way citizens are able to view the operations of their government and would create incentives to reduce the special access governance system that we currently operate (see Larry Lessig for more on this). Hopefully, this plan would apply to the White House and not just the agencies overseen by Cabinet officials.

The rest of Obama’s plan remains similar to what Ellen wrote about in June – posting bills online for five days before signing them and online townhall chats with agency heads – and the criticisms still remain. The only thing that I have to say about Obama’s plan to post all lobbyist meetings with agency heads is that he could set an example by posting his schedule now and reveal all lobbyist meetings that he is having now as a Senator. If it’s good enough for the executive branch, it’s good enough for the legislative as well. And if it’s good enough for the future, it’s good enough for the present.