From the Fact Check Desk: Is McCain’s ‘Transparency’ Attack on President Obama Accurate?

Feb 15, 2009 1:08pm

On CNN’s "State of the Union," today, President Obama’s election rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., attacked the Democrat for lack of transparency.

"Candidate Obama said that these (legislative) conferences would be open to the public," McCain said. "Said that the American people would have 5 days to view (legislation) on the Internet. There (were) commitments made that certainly aren’t being kept now."

Is that true?

Yep.

On June 22, 2007, at New Hampshire Community Technical College in Manchester, NH, then-Sen. Barack Obama said, "when I’m president, meetings where laws are written will be more open to the public. No more secrecy. That’s a commitment i’m going to make to you as president. No more secrecy."

And, the future president further pledged, "when there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as president, you the public will have five days to look online and find out whats in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing."

This was later massaged to a pledge that President Obama "will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days."

Clearly, as Politifact points out, President Obama didn’t abide by that promise for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, or the S-CHIP bill.

Politifact thus labeled this President Obama’s first broken promise. 

The stimulus bill, meanwhile, wasn’t posted onto the White House website until Friday. The President will sign it four days later, on Tuesday.

The stimulus bill clearly would be considered "emergency" legislation, but if one goes by the original language President Obama used in 2007, this bill will also fall short of the ‘five days on the White House website before signing it’ pledge.

The good news about this broken Obama promise — he still can fix it for future legislation. It’s not a one-shot deal.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor’s response: "During the campaign, the president committed to introducing more sunlight into the lawmaking process by posting nonemergency legislation online for five days before signing it. The president remains committed to bringing more transparency to government, and in this spirit the White House has posted legislation expected to come to the president’s desk online for comment. We will be implementing this policy in full soon; currently we are working through implementation procedures and some initial issues with the congressional calendar. In the meantime, we will continue to post legislation on our Web site for comment as it moves through Congress over the next few weeks."

In the next few days we will review the suddenly budget-hawkish rhetoric of congressional Republicans and the way they spent money in the Bush era. Feel free to post nominees below.

- jpt

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