Democrats Attack First Amendment, Fight Transparency | Speaker.gov

Speaking last week at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Speaker Boehner talked about how Republicans are running the House of Representatives differently than it had been run by both parties in the past:

“Today I can report that the people’s House is more open and more transparent than ever. For the first time, legislative data is posted online in XML and in bulk. House proceedings and committee hearings are all streamed online. … Earmarks used to crash our coffers at the rate of about 10,000 at a time – they’ve been eliminated. The cost of the House has been reduced by 13.8 percent. And we’ve considered at least 33 bills under an open process. Consider that my predecessor had no bills on the floor under an open process. … All of this is about delivering what my friend Newt Gingrich calls a ‘21st century, citizen-directed government;’ one that is smaller, less costly, and more accountable to the people we serve.”

The last time we counted the ways that President Obama has failed to keep his promise of running “the most transparent administration in history,” none other than The New York Times agreed, concluding, “John Boehner’s Right on Executive Secrecy.”

Since then, more has been written about the Obama administration’s attempts to eliminate news coverage it doesn’t like and restrict the freedom of the press:

  • The fight for access to public information has never been harder, Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said …. [T]he Obama administration is making it hard for journalists to find information and cover the news: … Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. … Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. … Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad. … Many federal agencies simply don’t respond at all in a timely manner [to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)], forcing news organizations to sue each time to force action. … The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handle the FOIA requests.” (Associated Press, 9/19/14)
  • “Journalists who cover the White House say Obama’s press aides have demanded — and received — changes in press-pool reports before the reports have been disseminated to other journalists. They say the White House has used its unusual role as the distributor of the reports as leverage to steer coverage in a more favorable direction. … [T]hat the White House has become involved at all represents a troubling trend for journalists .... In decades of reporting on the White House, Tom DeFrank, contributing editor of the National Journal, said he’s been asked by aides to change something in a pool report only once — during the Ford administration. He refused. ‘My view is the White House has no right to touch a pool report,’  DeFrank said. ‘It’s none of their business.’ … Some journalists say the Obama White House has been more vigilant than its predecessors in scrutinizing pool reports and at times has objected to seemingly trivial details.” (The Washington Post, 9/23/14)

The American people deserve better from the Executive Branch, but the thirst for more control is not unique to the current occupant of the White House. Just this month, Senate Democrats spent their time pushing for a constitutional amendment that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment rights. Many Democrats would like to control what Americans are allowed say about them, whether those citizens write for a newspaper or donate to a political campaign. This is a deeply worrisome trend, and Americans should take note.