Legal Scholar: Obama Breaking Promise for Online Transparency

By David Kravets EmailApril 14, 2009 | 5:04:43 PM


President Barack Obama is breaching a key campaign promise of government transparency, according to Jim Harper, the director of information studies at the Cato Institute.

Harper, in his Monday paper, The Promise that Keeps on Breaking, notes that Obama, as part of his ethics plan, promised during the campaign to post legislation seeking his signature for five days online.

“He has now signed 11 bills into law and gone, at best, 1 for 11 on his five-day posting promise,” Harper writes.

The DTV Delay Act was the only piece of legislation to pass the sniff test, according to Harper. The Cato Institute director says legislation the president signed without online visibility included laws surrounding childrens’ health insurance, financial bailouts, the naming of an Illinois post office, immigration, small business, public lands and aviation.

According to Harper, here’s why transparency is important:

Members of Congress are highly skilled political risk balancers, and the president’s firm insistence on leaving bills sitting out there, unsigned, after they pass Congress would have a significant effect on congressional behavior. It would threaten to reveal excesses in parochial amendments and earmarks, which could bring down otherwise good bills. Recognizing the negative attention they could draw to themselves, representatives and senators would act with more circumspection, and last-minute add-ons to big bills would recede. A firm five-day rule at the White House would also inspire the House and Senate to implement more transparent and careful processes themselves.

Does it matter if finished legislation awaiting Obama’s signature is posted? Tell us what you think.


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