Earlier this month, the White House announced that President Obama would be receiving a “transparency” award from good-government groups – a piece of news that was met with well-deserved mockery from the press. The White House responded by canceling the award ceremony without explanation.
But now Politico is reporting that Obama accepted the award this week in a secret, closed-door meeting with government transparency groups:
This time, Obama met quietly in the Oval Office with Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Patrice McDermott of OpenTheGovernment.org, without disclosing the meeting on his public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room.
Obama’s timing could not have been more inopportune, as the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee starts investigating the administration’s foot-dragging on FOIA requests today. The president has received heavy criticism from reporters and open-government groups for his administration’s lack of transparency.
The director of one of these government watchdogs, Steve Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told Politico that perhaps the award was meant to be “aspirational,” like the president’s premature Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe. Of course, considering Obama’s track record on the peace issue, that may not be the sort of comparison the president wants to encourage.