From crack DC intern Sebastian Jones:
During last night’s primetime press conference, Christi Parsons of the Chicago Tribune asked President Obama a pointed question about the transparency his administration had often promised during the campaign and seemingly failed to deliver once in power. The President’s response, short and direct, was also relatively misleading. Examining the record, we fact-check his remarks.
1) Meeting Health Care Executives
Obama: "Well, on the list of health care executives who’ve visited us, most of the time you guys have been in there taking pictures, so it hasn’t been a secret. And my understanding is we just sent a letter out providing a full list of all executives. But frankly these have mostly been at least photo sprays where you could see who was participating…"
Fact-Check: Until yesterday, that the Obama administration was having meetings with health care executives and lobbyists at the White House as early as February 4th was not public knowledge. When Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a freedom of information request last month for records pertaining to visits by 18 industry executives and lobbyists, their request was denied. An earlier FOI request in May for information on Coal industry executives and their White House visits was similarly denied, both using the same legal arguments that the Bush administration employed to keep Dick Cheney’s energy task force meetings out of the public eye. CREW has filed suit in both cases.
Also worth noting is that yesterday’s letter released by the White House did not affirm (or satisfy) the FOI request from CREW, but rather was an "exercise of [presidential] discretion"–basically the White House saying that while they believe the public is not necessarily entitled to this information, they’ll provide it anyway.
2) Putting Health Care Negotiations on C-SPAN
Obama: "With respect to all the negotiations not being on C-SPAN, you will recall in this very room that our kickoff event was here on C-SPAN, and at a certain point you start getting into all kinds of different meetings–Senate Finance is having a meeting, the House is having a meeting. If they wanted those to be on C-SPAN then I would welcome it. I don’t think there are a lot of secrets going on in there."
Fact-Check: Regarding C-SPAN, Obama told a crowd at an August 11, 2008 town hall, "What we’ll do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." With regards to there not being "a lot of secrets going on" in congressional meetings, this article from today’s Roll Call describing the secrecy surrounding Sen. Max Baucus’ bipartisan talks would suggest otherwise.
3) TARP transparency
Obama: "And the last question with respect to TARP. Let me take a look at what exactly they say we have not provided. I think that we’ve provided much greater transparency than existed prior to our administration coming in. It is a big program. I don’t know exactly what’s been requested. I’ll find out and I will have an answer for you."
Fact-Check: Testifying before congress the day before the President’s presser, TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky told lawmakers that "although Treasury has taken some steps towards improving transparency in TARP programs, it has repeatedly failed to adopt recommendations that…are essential to providing basic transparency."
For a comprehensive list of Obama White House transparency short-comings, check out this post from Glenn Greenwald.