President Obama is finally uniting the left and the right -- in joint opposition to his administration's chronic sabotage of transparency and public disclosure rules. It won't be long before liberals disillusioned by Dear Leader's reveal-as-we-say-not-as-we-conceal policies link arms with me and join in on my 2-year-old chant: Obama lied, transparency died.
Watchdog groups and Republicans on Capitol Hill want an investigation into hundreds of White House meetings with corporate lobbyists at D.C. coffee houses. K Street influence peddlers told The New York Times last week that they've met routinely with Team Obama officials over the past 18 months to discuss policy matters -- at Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, even on a side lawn -- with the express purpose of circumventing the public's right to know.
The Coffee House Ruse comes on top of the latest confession of White House non-disclosure from ex-Big Labor heavy Patrick Gaspard, Obama's chief domestic policy adviser, who failed to report a $40,000 pension payment from his old employer, the Service Employees International Union in New York. If they keep this up, sunlight-avoiding Obama officials will soon be cast as the next "Twilight" vampires.
"Lobbyists say some White House officials will agree to an initial meeting with a lobbyist and his client at the White House," the Times' once-zealous champions of Obama reported, "but then plan follow-up sessions at a site not subject to the visitors' log." Said one financial lobbyist who has met more than a half-dozen times off-campus with White House officials: "I'll call and say, 'I want to talk to you about X,' and they'll say, 'Sure, let's talk at Starbucks.'"
You see: When Obama promised to "change the way Washington works," what he really meant was changing where the usual Beltway backroom wheelers and dealers do their business. And when he talked about changing the "culture" in the nation's capitol, what he really meant was just changing titles.
In addition to carving out the Coffee House loophole and using personal e-mail accounts to communicate with the influence industry, White House officials have been advising lobbyists looking for administration jobs to de-register -- shedding their K Street status -- to get around Obama's vaunted lobbyist hiring ban. With more than 40 ex-lobbyists working in the administration, Obama's no-lobbyists executive order already has more holes in it than a moth-eaten crocheted sweater.
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