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Despite pledge, Obama transition fails to disclose meetings; keeps promise with searchable inauguration donor database


WASHINGTON -- The Obama team, pledging the ''most open and transparent transition in history,'' gets an ''A'' for disclosing donors to the Jan. 20 inauguration and a ''F'' when it comes to revealing transition meetings with groups. Contrary to its own ''seat at the table transparency policy,'' meetings are not posted on a Web site.

I'm giving a ''B'' to the Obama transition report on staff contacts with Gov. Blagojevich. The report was a summary narrative released last week of an internal inquiry into Gov. Blagojevich's selling-of-a-Senate seat scandal. While the Obama team deserves credit for disclosure -- including that President-elect Barack Obama and incoming White House staffers Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel met with federal prosecutors -- offering some notes or transcripts to support the conclusions would have been helpful.

During the presidential primary campaign, then candidate Obama, still an Illinois senator, made a pledge I heard for the first time on Oct. 24, 2007. In a school gym in Dover, N.H., Obama said if president, he would post his meetings on the Internet. That was interesting to me because Obama's Senate staff had been very selective about what Obama Senate-related meetings they disclosed and seemed to be guided by a ''less is best'' policy.

A month after the election, on Dec. 5, John Podesta, a transition co-chair, issued an Obama transparency policy. When it comes to meetings, ''the date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices'' would be ''posted on our Web site,'' at

Indeed, the ''seat at the table'' section states ''on this page, you can track these meetings, view documents provided to the Transition and leave comments for the team,'' but the statement is only partly true.

What is posted are materials -- for example, briefing or position papers -- submitted by groups in connection with a transition meeting. There is no list of meetings on the site, with a meeting defined in the policy as having three or more participants.

Transition spokesman Nick Shapiro, asked why the meetings are not posted despite the policy, said, ''This policy is part of President-elect Obama's commitment to run the most open and transparent transition in history. The transition staff has been instructed that this is a floor and not a ceiling. No transition has ever attempted to implement such disclosure requirements, and as we continue to evaluate the policy, refinements will be made to it."

There's better disclosure news when it comes to Obama's Presidential Inauguration Committee. The PIC is providing near real time postings of donors of $200 or more, with a user-friendly searchable database at the PICs Web site,

Donations are posted within 48 hours and include the contributors' state and employer. In another advance on the transparency front, inauguration bundlers -- those who tap their personal networks for money -- are disclosed with how much they have raised.

The Obama team set $50,000 per-person contribution limit for the inauguration with a $300,000-per-bundler cap; no corporate or political action committee money is accepted.

The PIC is revealing more about bundlers than did the presidential campaign.


What a load of crap.

I don't understand what the media is trying to insinuate about Obama's involvement with anything unethical the Governor may have done. Does Ms. Sweet and others REALLY believe that the President-elect, who just finished raising close to $1B dollars was holding out for a $10,000 kick back? What is the possible conspiracy that they are trying to get to "the bottom of" by requiring supporting documentation? Do they really think that this is the "Watergater" equivallent situation and they are being good investigative reporters by asking for transparency? To me and to most people this seams to be just another unworthy diversion from really serious issues facing this country, which require some follow up and investigaiion, but isn't it much easier to just pretend that they are busy with something important like they are "real journalists" Frankly, it's pathetic and all the main stream media seems to be in a "group think" as usual. So, please STOP!!! And focus on something of interest to the people. This YOUR COUNTRY too and it's falling apart, so show that you care!

I think an "F" for the website is stupid. Nobody has ever given this type of disclosure - even if it falls short of your desired level of detail.

Something that doesn't reach it's best ideal, but is leaps and bounds ahead of anything we've ever had before deserves better than an "F".

Would you like some cheese with your whine? You know there is far more disclosure than in any transition EVER, right? If Obama gets an "F", what does the other 43 Presidents get "Gs" or "Geez." Slow news week, eh?

This article states "During the presidential primary campaign, then candidate Obama, still an Illinois senator, made a pledge I heard for the first time on Oct. 24, 2007. In a school gym in Dover, N.H., Obama said if president, he would post his meetings on the Internet."
Today is December 29, 2008. Mr. Obama becomes president on January 20, 2009.
You cannot judge whether he is keeping that pledge until January 20, 2009.

Why on earth would we concern ourselves with your grading system or definition and assessment of the proper amount of transparency. I'm amazed that someone pays you to write this kind of crap. Your opinion of what grade to assign is no more important than anyone else's.
Please, go find a job that matches your limited writing ability and brain capacity...I'm thinking Wal-Mart Greeter!!!

In reply to Pee Dee. Are you suggesting or blatantly declaring that Wal-Mart greeters have inferior intellectual qualities? I graduated relatively high in my college class. I often find more common sense approach to life's problems from Wal Mart greeters than many who claim to be politically elite. It is easy to see Obama is not transparent, unless of course you categorize silence as transparency. I am willing to give Obama a chance as I respect the Office of the Presidency. I just haven't heard anything from him, except" I am shocked and saddened". That is transparency. I can see right through those statements. My conclusion is that if you are shocked or saddened by anything that results from associations with Chicago politicians then you are either naive or aborting the truth. That is transparency.

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Lynn Sweet

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

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 29, 2008 8:55 AM.

Axelrod on NBC's "Meet the Press" tells Gregory Obama team will not offer up Blagojevich inquiry notes, transcripts. was the previous entry in this blog.

Illinois General Assembly Blagojevich impeachment panel meets at 11 a.m. cst Monday is the next entry in this blog.

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