Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet web column: Obama says his state papers "could have been thrown out." Where is the stuff?


JOHNSTON, IA.—White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)—whose staff has been deflecting questions about the whereabouts of his state senate papers--said Friday he was not certain whether they still exist.

Obama made the comment after I asked him, “Where is the stuff?” VIDEO LINK

The context for pressing Obama on his state papers is this: He is campaigning as a champion of government transparency and slamming chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for not pushing the Clinton Library in Arkansas to speed up the release of papers from her tenure as First Lady.

At a press conference, I asked Obama, “Do your state senate papers still exist? If they do, just where are they? And would you ever intend to make them public to be responsive to some requests?

“Nobody has requested specific documents," Obama said.

However, the Chicago Tribune reported it has asked for documents from Obama’s Springfield years and never received a response. The Chicago Sun-Times has also been asking about Obama’s papers. Records from Obama’s office—if he kept them—would potentially show appointments with lobbyists, policy memos, meetings, etc., items the state would not have. Obama has no legal obligation to archive his state papers.

"I was in the state senate for eight years," Obama said. "I had one staff person, that was what was allocated. I don't have archivists in the state senate. I don't have the Barack Obama state senate library available to me, so we had a bunch of file cabinets. I do not have a whole bunch of records from those years. Now, if there are particular documents that you are interested in, then you should let us know.”

I said my question was not about specific records. “When the office was packed up, where is the stuff.?

“You know I’m not certain, Lynn," Obama said. "As I said, I didn’t have the resources to ensure that all this stuff was archived in some way…. it could have been thrown out.”


I understand what you are saying but I think Ms. Sweet you are missing a key distinction. Sen. Obama was refering to Sen. Clinton's papers because she cites her experience as First Lady on the campaign trail and yet does not tell us the particulars of this experience. A prime example is health care: she learned so much and fought so hard, but it's apparently all her husband's fault the way that went down.

The argument over Sen. Clinton's papers is not simply about transperancy but experience: Sen. Obama's voting record stands as his experience over those eight years. And while he may not have had the resources to archive these documents you do not say if this is a standard practice for state senators? While it is, in point of fact, common practice for white house officials and papers.

The two are not comparable.

Similarly, Sen. Obama's current transparency in the senate and how he has chosen to run his campaign is a marked contrast to how Sen. Clinton chooses to run her campaign.

I admire the doggedness with which you cover Sen. Obama and that you don't give him a free pass; but at the same time I feel you are attempting to compare apples to oranges. I've never heard that state senators keep archives of there work but I know that the president and first lady do this.

I think this is a clear explanation the senator has given. While I still don't know why after eight years the release of the Clinton papers has been so slow.

When you play in the proverbial glass house, be careful of the rocks to toss about. It may well get thrown back and you need to be ready to catch it. Your point is well taken and intelligently presented. Might we suggest that it is a "Sweet thought?"

So the campaign has come down to this. Obama seeks to avoid the questioners while Hillary plants phony questions. Next candidate please!

I hope that the people who have given Lynn Sweet grief for supposedly being too easy on Obama have seen the video.

Obama writes books. It is incredible to me that he didn't keep his records of his tenure as a state senator.


Obama is the guy who in his biographies can site minute detail of his recollections of early childhood on. Is this the kind of guy who would throw away one of a kind records of his state senate service? Why can't he remember exactly what he did with these records and at the same time remember details of 40 years ago. Sounds like every other politician to me.

My questions regarding Barack H. Obama,which still have not been answered:

1. I have heard the media and campaign hype, but just who is Barack H. Obama really?
2. Who, again throwing out all the media and campaign hype, is actually behind Obama pulling the strings that has given him the determination and feeling that he should be the next President of our country?
3. From what I have seen, read and heard, Obama has focused on the Presidency for "many" years, but previously accomplished little, why?
4. Who is Michelle Obama really?
5. Where is the documentation of his alleged accomplished past?
6. I am sorry, but change what and how, and for whom? You cannot vote "present" and create change.

As an Independent I could go on and on. I vote for a person, not a party.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 9, 2007 5:33 PM.

Sweet web column: Obama's GOP anger management; tackles Clinton electability. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet blog extra: Crawford White House hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pecan-smoked beef tenderloin for dinner. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.