The Conversation: Coffee and Lobbyists?

The Conversation: Lobbyists Take a Coffee Break

During his presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama vowed to end the revolving door for Washington lobbyists and usher in the most transparent administration in history. But some say the administration hasn't lived up to its promises.

As part of Obama's pledge to encourage greater transparency, the White House has released extensive records of the visitors who have passed through its gates for meetings. The records don't account for meetings that occurred beyond the gates, however, including those at the Caribou Coffee shop a block away from the White House front door.

ABC News' Chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper today walked across the street from the West Wing to Caribou for a "Conversation" on the Obama administration and transparency.

"At these places, they don't have to disclose on the White House visitor logs that they're meeting with lobbyists," Tapper told ABC News' Stephanie Sy.

The New York Times reported that hundreds of off-the-books meetings between White House officials and lobbyists have happened at Caribou Coffee and other nearby shops since Obama took office, one of which ABC News witnessed today.

"While I was setting up, I ran into a White House official who was meeting a lobbyist for coffee," Tapper said. "They said they knew each other from before and weren't talking business."

But the good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says plenty of business has taken place at Caribou Coffee and other places like it, including discussions on everything from financial regulation to health care overhaul.

"Anything the White House works on, lobbyists are here to discuss," said CARE Executive Director Melanie Sloan, who participated in the "Conversation."

Sloan's organization filed a letter of complaint with the House of Representatives recently, calling for the Committee on Oversight and Government reform to investigate the meetings and the use of private e-mail accounts to communicate with lobbyists.

While the Obama administration has released more information than any other White House in history, it didn't begin releasing records until after her group filed a lawsuit, Sloan said.

"Prior administrations were opaque and Obama is somewhat transparent," Tapper said. But "the truth is that you can't get rid of lobbyists in Washington."

We hope you'll watch the "Conversation" from Caribou Coffee.

Click here to return to the "World News" page.

ABC News' Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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