Good Government Group Sues for White House Visitors’ Logs

By Gorman Gorman

Jun 16, 2009 10:49am

The good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, filed a lawsuit today to force the President Obama to share White House visitors logs with the public.

“We’re suing because the Obama Administration has made it clear that they are continuing the policies and practices of the Bush administration and claiming that White House visitors’ records are off limits to the public,” said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for CREW.

Weismann said White House visitors’ logs can “offer a great deal of insight about pressures and influences people can bring to bear on policies.”

Last month CREW requested through the Freedom of Information Act that the Secret Service provide the organization with information related to top coal executives visiting the White House.

“Taking the exact same position as the Bush administration,” CREW claimed in a press release, “the Obama administration claimed the records are presidential, not agency records, and otherwise exempt in their entirety because of the possibility in some instances they could reveal information protected by the presidential communications privilege.”

“We know that President Bush is a major component of clean coal,” Weismann said.

When it was pointed out to her that she mistakenly referred to President Obama as President Bush, Weismann said that was likely due to “disturbing similarities in policies between the two presidents.”

The denial of CREW’s request, as well as another request from MSNBC.com for all visitors’ logs from Inauguration Day until now is “completely at odds with a president who says, ‘I want to be transparent,’” Weismann says.

Despite the President’s insistence that he is running the most transparent administration in history, Weismann doesn’t give the actual transparency policies a good grade.

“I think it's at best a low C,” she said, “especially given the rhetoric and the policy. There's just a big gap.”

Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with CREW that White House visitors’ records must be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. “We have every reason to believe we'll win this battle,” Weismann said.

-jpt

UPDATE: White House spokesman Ben LaBolt emails to say "We are reviewing our policy on access to visitor logs and related litigation.  The letter represents how visitor logs have been treated historically."

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