White House Response to CREW Suit for Health Care Execs Visitor Records Insufficient
Washington, D.C. – While Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is pleased the White House has taken a step towards delivering the transparency promised in the first days of the administration, the letter sent by White House Counsel Greg Craig in no way satisfies CREW’s June 22nd Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Secret Service visitor records of 18 health care executives.
First, the FOIA requires the administration to release the records themselves, not merely a summary of some information included in the records. The actual visitor records likely would indicate with whom each official met, the administration official who requested clearance for the visitor, the time of the meeting, the duration of the meeting and, in some cases, the purpose of the meeting. In addition, no information was provided regarding any visits to the vice president’s residence. Mr. Craig’s summary is not an adequate substitution for the records themselves.
Second, this letter states the President has used his discretionary authority to release information regarding the visits. There is no indication, however, that this information is complete; there may well be records of other visits not included in this discretionary release. Further, as required by the FOIA, no information was provided to demonstrate the adequacy of the search.
Finally, transparency is not situational. It is not sufficient for the White House to release certain visitor records shortly before a press conference to avoid distraction. In a separate case, CREW recently sued the administration for failing to provide records related to White House visits by coal company executives. In addition, CREW has two other cases for visitor records outstanding: one for visits by Christian conservative leaders to the Bush White House, and another for records related to visits to the Bush White House by lobbyist Stephen Payne. These cases are now before the Court of Appeals, but so far, the Obama administration has echoed the Bush administration’s position that these records are presidential, not federal, despite district court rulings clearly rejecting that legal analysis.
Releasing some records because it is politically expedient to do so is not transparency.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact David Merchant at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org