Situational Outrage in Suing for the White House Visitors’ Logs

It would be much easier to consider Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington a fair-minded advocate for transparency in government if the group weren’t so selective in its protests.

CREW has filed FOIA requests and now sued the Department of Homeland Security (complaint) in an attempt to get Secret Service records of the White House visits by health-care industry and trade association executives. Indeed, the group’s FOIA request names specific health-care officials CREW wants more information on.

From CREW’s home page, a statement posted on the latest developments, “White House Reponse to CREW Suit for health care execs visitor records insufficient,” and excerpts:

Washington, D.C. – While Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is pleased the White House has taken a step towards delivering the transparency promised in the first days of the administration, the letter sent by White House Counsel Greg Craig in no way satisfies CREW’s June 22nd Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Secret Service visitor records of 18 health care executives.


Finally, transparency is not situational. It is not sufficient for the White House to release certain visitor records shortly before a press conference to avoid distraction. In a separate case, CREW recently sued the administration for failing to provide records related to White House visits by coal company executives.

Transparency is not situational, and yet CREW is interested in only health care executives and coal company executives. One of the Obama Administration’s welcome attributes is its openness, its willingness to hear from all sides of a policy issue, and yes, that includes health care and energy company executives.

So why is there not similar interest being demonstrated in the visits of labor officials or top lobbyists with the lawsuit industry? There’s good evidence that a top lawyer for the SEIU wrote at least one of the President’s first executive orders, and clearly organized labor has an open door and great influence with the White House. Then there’s the green lobby. Has CREW made a similar demand to acquire detailed information on which environmentalist leader has been meeting with Carol Browner?

By complaining only about business groups with access to the White House, CREW shows that its priority is not responsibility or ethics in government but rather opposition to the policies those businesses advocate. That’s just your usual anti-business lobbying cloaked by claptrap about transparency.

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