This isn’t the first undeserved award President Obama has won, but it’s still sure to surprise journalists and open-government advocates. Politico’s Mike Allen, reporting on President Obama’s schedule today, writes that later this afternoon, “the President will accept an award from a coalition of good government groups and transparency advocates to recognize ‘his deep commitment to an open and transparent government — of, by, and for the people’ in conjunction with Sunshine Week. There will be a pool spray at the top [brief photo opportunity].”
Of course, Obama’s notorious vow to run “the most transparent” administration in history has been an extraordinary failure, as AP reports today:
The administration refused to release any sought-after materials in more than 1-in-3 information requests, including cases when it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law. It refused more often to quickly consider information requests about subjects described as urgent or especially newsworthy. And nearly half the agencies that AP examined took longer — weeks more, in some cases — to give out records last year than during the previous year.
The AP noted that the Obama administration even censored a cache of internal e-mails describing — ironically enough — its Open Government Directive, after the e-mails were requested by the news service.
“[T]he White House Office of Management and Budget blacked-out entire pages of some e-mails between federal employees discussing how to apply the new openness rules, and it blacked-out one e-mail discussing how to respond to AP’s request for information about the transparency directive,” AP reported.
And the lack of media transparency supposedly goes beyond just FOIA requests. Keith Koffler, a former White House reporter at Roll Call who now runs the White House Dossier blog, wrote a post on Monday about the administration’s alleged “bullying” of the press.
“President Obama’s conference on bullying Thursday was deeply ironic to some in the White House press corps,” wrote Keffler. “That’s because every reporter who regularly covers the place knows that President Obama’s staff has a policy – an actual, pre-conceived policy – of bullying. … The problem with this kind of intimidation is not that it hurt reporters’ feelings. The problem is that it is an assault on free speech.”
So Happy Sunshine Week, President Obama. And like your 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, consider this award more of “a call to action” as opposed to a recognition of past achievements.