Put nothing in writing, ever.
Posted by Ed C on Wednesday, July 8, 2009
President Obama released a memorandum on January 21st, 2009 for the heads of executive departments and agencies titled “Transparency and Open Government”“. It opens with the following paragraph:
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
So how does Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, show her commitment to this “unprecedented level of openness?” According to Representative James Sensenbrenner, R-WI (from the Washington Examiner) in a July 8th letter to Edward Markey, Chairman, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming:
I initially raised these concerns in a letter to you and Congressman Towns dated June 9, 2009.1 In that letter I cited two incidents. First, Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), revealed that the White House had held a series of secret meetings as they were crafting the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Nichols admitted that there was a deliberate “vow of silence” surrounding the negotiations with the White House on vehicle fuel standards.2 According to Nichols, “[Carol] Browner [Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change] quietly orchestrated private discussions from the White House with auto industry officials.” Negotiators were instructed to “put nothing in writing, ever.” Clearly, Browner’s actions were intended to leave little to no documentation of the deliberations that lead to stringent new CAFE standards. [emphasis mine]
That certainly is going to make will make it harder for the Obama administration to implement this part of the Transparency and Open Government memorandum:
My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public.
Maybe I just misinterpreted what President Obama meant when he said “unprecedented level of openness.” I assumed that he meant more openness, but apparently, at least to Carol Browner, he really meant less.
(First heard on the Mark Levine show)