Tag: sunshine week

A ‘Soviet-Style Power-Grab,’ to Squelch Bad Press for ObamaCare

The Department of Health and Human Services has released new guidelines on communications between department employees and the media.  The guidelines evidently require all communications to be approved by the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.  Also: no off-the-record communications.

The media are not happy.  The editor of FDA Webview & FDA Review writes (via Poynter; more here):

The new formal HHS Guidelines on the Provision of Information to the News Media represent, to this 36-year veteran of reporting FDA news, a Soviet-style power-grab. By requiring all HHS employees to arrange their information-sharing with news media through their agency press office, HHS has formalized a creeping information-control mechanism that informally began during the Clinton Administration and was accelerated by the Bush and Obama administrations. The U.S. now takes a large step toward joining other information-controlling countries like my native Australia, where government employees who talk with the news media without permission commit a federal crime. I came to the U.S. in 1974 to escape this oppression.

The HHS guidelines once again show that the purpose of a public information office is not to disseminate information to the public but to withhold information from the public.

Since this came on the heels of an HHS official announcing that the agency is scuttling ObamaCare’s long-term care entitlement, a.k.a. the “CLASS Act,” one wonders if there is a connection.  Or maybe HHS is just motivated by a general fear that the more the public learns about ObamaCare, the less we will like it.

(Update: Turns out, HHS released their new guidelines the same day that agency official voiced his opinion about the future of the CLASS Act. HT: Chris Jacobs.)

The President Comments on Sunshine Week

It is “Sunshine Week,” a time for attending to government transparency issues. And the president issued a statement today commemorating the occassion. Norm Eisen, the president’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, put a more detailed “Happy Sunshine Week” post on the Whitehouse.gov blog today as well.

The administration has done some good things, and there is no doubt that it means to do well. My pet transparency issue is one on which the news is not so good, however: the “Sunlight Before Signing” promise to post bills received from Congress for five days before they are made law.

When I last reported, the president was seven for 142 on fulfilling this promise. Of 142 bills subject to Sunlight Before Signing, only seven have been posted for five days. Since then another law has passed—H.R. 1299/P.L. 111-145, which was presented to the president on March 2nd, posted on Whitehouse.gov on March 4th, and signed into law the same day.

No emergency excuses the “United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009” from the sunlight treatment. Had it been posted, Americans may have had the opportunity to ask why a bill of that name establishes a “Corporation for Travel Promotion” to encourage international travel to the United States.

(Answer: S. 1023 was rolled into it, obscuring what Congress was doing in a common but insidious way. Cost of S. 1023 per U.S. family: about $24.)

The White House’s fulfillment of the Sunlight Before Signing promise now stands at seven for 143, or .049.

In his post, Norm Eisen said, “We are proud of our successes, but we of course recognize that much remains to be done, and we intend to redouble our efforts to make government as transparent, collaborative and participatory as possible.” And in his statement, the president said, “We are proud of these accomplishments, but our work is not done. We will continue to work toward an unmatched level of transparency, participation  and accountability across the entire Administration.”

The successes touted by Eisen and the president are real. We’re looking forward to more!