The Obama administration has a bad habit: it seems to never want the American people to know what it’s really up to, and it seeks to avoid accountability at all costs.
Here’s how New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, a journalist who has reported on Washington for more than two decades, described it recently: “[I]t is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering.”
Speaker Boehner has said “our system of government is built on an assumption of transparency,” and that “if they’re not willing to tell the American people the truth, it must not be very pretty.”
Here are just some examples of the administration’s troubling pattern of stonewalling, obstruction and evasion (in no particular order):
- Intimidating inspectors general and blocking their independent investigations. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that “A unit run by President Barack Obama's political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a ‘rogue law enforcement agency’ that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA's inspector general for years.” In 2009, President Obama fired an inspector general, Gerald Walpin, who had uncovered evidence of AmeriCorps funds being misused by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a strong supporter of the president. The New York Times reported that the corruption Walpin’s investigation unearthed was “embarrassing,” and Walpin later wrote that “This administration’s treatment of IGs is not conducive to active, independent, and objective inspectors general.”
- Refusing to testify about corruption at the IRS and stonewalling the investigation. Former Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner has twice pled the fifth and refused to testify about her role in the IRS’s systematic targeting of conservative groups, and the IRS’s current Commissioner has claimed that it will “take years” to provide Congress with all of the appropriate documents.
- Defying a congressional subpoena regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack. In response to a congressional subpoena, in May 2013 the White House released some documents and emails related to the administration’s development of talking points that then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice used in a round of Benghazi-focused television interviews on September 16, 2012. But additional Benghazi-related emails came to light last week after a court ordered their release to an outside watchdog group. In one email, then-White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes says a goal of Rice’s interviews should be to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”
- Using fake or personal email addresses to conduct official business. In June 2013, the Associated Press reported that “Some of President Barack Obama's political appointees [including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius] are using secret government email accounts to conduct official business...a practice that complicates agencies' legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails under public records requests and congressional inquiries.” Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson infamously used a fake address and the alias “Richard Windsor.”
- Asserting executive privilege to avoid accountability for Fast and Furious. The botched gunwalking operation resulted in the deaths of at least two American law enforcement agents, but the Obama administration refused to turn over documents to congressional investigators and Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt. Finally, President Obama asserted executive privilege, so House Republicans asked the federal district court to overturn the administration’s frivolous claims and force it to provide answers. The legal process is ongoing.
- Hiding ObamaCare enrollment numbers. Obama administration officials have repeatedly refused to make public basic information and data about enrollment under ObamaCare, even as they’ve delayed and changed the law at will in order to sweep its numerous failures under the rug. Moreover, the administration changed the Census Bureau’s annual survey “so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall,” The New York Times reported last month.
- Meeting with lobbyists off the books. The New York Times reported in June 2010 that “the Caribou Coffee across the street from the White House has become a favorite meeting spot to conduct Obama administration business…. White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists…. But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure[.]”