A New Mission for the WH Press Corps


Update: Politico reports that Obama has released the records, considering releasing all their visitor logs.

Remember when NPR posted a picture of all the lobbyists attending a health care committee meeting and asked its readers to crowd source those lobbyists identities?

Well, given the news that the Obama White House is treating the health industry executives who have visited with the same secrecy that Dick Cheney accorded his oil buddies, perhaps it’s time the White House press corps did something similar?

Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the Secret Service asking about visits from 18 executives representing health insurers, drug makers, doctors and other players in the debate. The group wants the material in order to gauge the influence of those executives in crafting a new healthcare policy.

The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege."

Think about it. The White House press corps has ready access to the outsides of the White House. A significant number of them hang around in their virtual office for hours on end. Wouldn’t they be much more productive if they started–collectively–documenting who was coming and going at the White House? Wouldn’t creating a record of who had the access at the White House be a better use of their time than serving as props in the next stage managed press conference?

I know this is a tall order, given that most of the outlets covering the White House full time would rather charge those White House visitors than expose them. But it might make these journalists’ efforts worthwhile. 

  1. Peterr says:

    Q: “Wouldn’t they be much more productive if they started–collectively–documenting who was coming and going at the White House? Wouldn’t creating a record of who had the access at the White House be a better use of their time than serving as props in the next stage managed press conference?”

    A: “And give up show business?” faints

  2. Leen says:

    NPR has been doing a good job on this issue. One would think that the press corp
    “Wouldn’t they be much more productive if they started–collectively–documenting who was coming and going at the White House? Wouldn’t creating a record of who had the access at the White House be a better use of their time than serving as props in the next stage managed press conference?”

    Does FDL have anyone in D.C. to help Jane document any of this?

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    I know this is a tall order, given that most of the outlets covering the White House full time would rather charge those White House visitors than expose them. But it might make these journalists’ efforts worthwhile.

    Weirdly, IMHO the best ‘journalist’ covering the health care debate right now may be Dylan Rattigan (?sp) on MSNBC’s new “Morning Meeting”. Why? Because he’s talking quite openly about the amounts of money involved in lobbying on this issue AND ALSO about the huuuuuuge costs of not doing anything.

    Obama is dealing with (mostly) the same Senate that deregulated banks, allowed completely unregulated CDOs, and is now accusing him of a health care plan ‘we can’t afford’…?! That’s an IronyOverload all in itself.

    The smartest thing Obama could do is release those records — if only to smack down the idiots in the US Senate (of both parties) who created the problems that led to TARP. If he released the logs and showed those Senators that – by meeting with insurance and pharma lobbyists – he has ‘listened to all sides,’ it might diminish some of the whining and deflate the GOP hysteria a bit.

    Releasing those logs would allow Obama to expose the hypocrisy of arguments claiming that he is ‘rushing legislation’, and/or ‘hasn’t listened to all sides.’

  4. BoxTurtle says:

    Any reporter who starts doing as you suggest will find his WH press pass pulled for some reason. And it’ll stay pulled.

    Boxturtle (Besides, the secret ones are brought in via the Blair House tunnel)

  5. tejanarusa says:

    I seem to recall a distant past in which reporters (they never called themselves journalists) considered that sort of thing a prime goal of their ‘mission.’

  6. Teddy Partridge says:

    This would be “journalism,” which our Versailles media doesn’t do anymore, if they ever did.

    They’d have to get permission from the source, per Russert. Nah gah happen.

  7. joanneleon says:

    That’s a damned good idea, EW. How can we shame them into it? Is that even possible? Maybe Stewart and/or Colbert will pick up on this idea. We should ask them whose best interests they represent and who they are trying to keep informed.

    However, if they did do this, would they lose their precious status within the WH press corps pecking order? Would they be replaced?

    Frankly, if they are there at the WH, they should report on everyone they see entering. After all, we do own that house, don’t we? Besides that, it makes for good news reporting and it’s something people are interested in knowing.

    On the refusal to disclose visitor records, yet again, my head is spinning. Who exactly is this guy that we elected? Were those records not always public before Bush and Cheney decided they weren’t? Does this president not prefer to compare himself with former great presidents rather than Bush/Cheney, arguably the worst in history?

  8. Leen says:

    If they (congress) go on their summer break on time..how do we monitor which Insurance lobbyist contact them during their vacations?

  9. freepatriot says:

    sorry folks

    the white house presstitutes ain’t gonna do anything that might jeopardize their cocktail wienie privileges

    an they ain’t gonna take advice from some DFH who uses uncouth words on television

    we’re on our own here, folks

    the whitehouse presstitutes have joined the other side, kinda like when your tonsils go bad

    if you want real news, send emptywheel that dollar per day that you are wasting on the NY Times and kathy weymouths washington presstitutes and whores organization

    • Leen says:

      If Rachel or Olbermann are in control of their programming as I believe they have said. They should have been knocking down EW’s door after she told the truth on Schuster’s.

      especially since they have been coming here a few years for some of their material

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      OK, freep. This is creepy:

      the whitehouse presstitutes have joined the other side, kinda like when your tonsils go bad

      How did you know Obama would discuss tonsils?
      (And why is Obama not yet in Microsoft’s dictionary and still underlined?)

      • freepatriot says:

        the crystal bong knows everything

        and some times, it tells me stuff …

        I told ya I was 2 days ahead of everybody else

  10. [email protected] says:

    It took exactly 6 months for Barack Obama’s White House to oh-so-conveniently forget about the famous memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to disclose information requested under FOIA requests in almost all instances…

    The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a
    clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.
    The Government should not keep information confidential merely
    because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure,
    because errors and failures might be revealed, or because
    of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never
    be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of
    Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed
    to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive
    branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit
    of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of
    the public.
    All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure,
    in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied
    in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The
    presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions
    involving FOIA.
    The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should
    take affirmative steps to make information public. They should
    not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies
    should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is
    known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

    What a disappointment. What a disappointment. Why is the White House adhering to an execrable standard set by the worst president of any of our lifetimes?

    • bobschacht says:

      Jon Stewart? The Daily Show? What network is that on? What time? I’ve never seen it.
      Is it really a news show, or some entertainment thing? I’m going to have to look for it now.

      Bob in HI

    • Leen says:

      oh my what a deserved slap in their faces

      “The advice I give to any journalist . . . be sure that you’re fair, you’re honest, you’re as impartial as it is possible to be, and stick with those principles of good journalism, regardless of what pressure you may be under,” Cronkite said in 2006. “The job is too far too important for you, the new person taking over, to permit others to dictate how good journalism should be employed.”

      • freepatriot says:

        ya gotta keep in mind that about 20% of the people who watch Colbert think that he is a serious supporter of conservative policies

        ie, they don’t get the joke

        I’m thinking Colbert probably would have done pretty well in that poll

        so gibson, williams and couric benefited from that omission


        The King is Dead, LONG LIVE THE KING

        I’m trying to make a comparison between Jon Stewart and Richard the Lionheart, but I don’t know richard’s history

        Jon Stewart laid waste to “Crossfire” an left tucker carlson curled in a ball crying an screamin

        Richard the Lionheart ever do anything like that ???

        (duckin & runnin)

        • Leen says:

          My only objection to Stewart is when he ripped into Chris Matthews and tiptoed around warmongers like David Frum and Bill Kristol when they were on his program. It was clear that Stewart does not like Matthews but who has done more harm to this nation those who lied us into Iraq or Chris matthews.

          Also the I/P topic and the I lobby was way off limits for Stewart for years and years. After some of us have pounded him for his clear avoidance of these issues while ripping up other leaders and issues Stewart finally made cracked these issues on his program. Finally

  11. alabama says:

    I think this is wide of the mark, and let’s just take note of a point that you make: where 43 depended on one man, you propose that Obama depends on one or another, which, to my mind, means two. But the two may disagree; they may have competing views, which puts Obama in the position of being the one who decides. You do not argue that he abdicates this role, and I agree.

    I gather that Bill Clinton also had two from the start: Hillary and Bruce Lindsay. Other examples could be cited.

    Have we been watching too much of a sitcom called “Dick and the Codpiece”?

    • emptywheel says:

      Sorry, I was speaking specifically as to his decision not to release visitor logs, a decision that I suspect was made by either Craig (because Cheney fought for the right to blow off citizens, so you can’t give back that right) or Rahm (because he wants to hide his friends).

      Obama has made a bunch of other ill-considered decisions, some probably pushed by these guys, some pushed by other ill-considered appointments (and almost all of his worst people were appointments, not nominations). Obviously, he’s still responsible for all those decisions.

      • alabama says:

        Got it–and I should have taken more careful notice of this context.

        I don’t like a lot of Obama’s decisions, and I often know why, but I’m quite sure as well that he also knows why. I would like to hear some explanations–as wouldn’t we all?– but I’d never suppose that he doesn’t honor the principle of “due diligence”.

        Politicians just love to send folks into raptures and rages with their clever moves. It keeps them going, and it keeps them in the middle of things.

  12. skdadl says:

    Am I right in thinking that the White House has both a front door (very formal) and several back doors — eg, where the press go in to conferences, etc, except there must be something similar in the East Wing and the centre?

    But yes, why not? Paparazzi everywhere.

    • emptywheel says:

      White House has a number of doors and a number of gates. You’d probbaly need to watch teh gate, and a lot of the meetings would likely be at the EEOB.

      The press has a special gate, and I presume the blood-sucking lobbyists have their own gate as well.

      • JimWhite says:

        I presume the blood-sucking lobbyists have their own gate as well.

        I think they probably swim upstream and jump out of the toilets, kinda like shit salmon.

      • JohnJ says:

        Sorry, late to the party as always.

        The whole capital area has a tunnel system that included, at one time, the WH. I haven’t been there in over 20 years but there was a tram like system for all the Gov workers to run from building to building. It wasn’t really restricted access other than it went from inside the office buildings and had no outside access.

        It was never secret, but like that hotel outside of town with the blast doors, it just wasn’t discussed much.(After Baron Harkonen’s reign, it probably has armed guards). Most of us with relatives and neighbors working downtown knew about it. (The court I lived in had managers from: Treasury, FCC, Customs, Secret Service, FBI, CIA, and the WaPoo. We knew lots of that stuff).

        • Neil says:

          Is he the same Baron Harkonen who is for health care reform and the public option? As it turns out, he was denied coverage when his heart plug was determined to be a pre-existing condition.

          • JohnJ says:

            Ah ha! I think we may have stumbled onto the secret to the Rethug loyalty; the heart plug! Have we ever seen a Rethug without a shirt on (yuck, no thanks!)

            Do ya’ think he or poppy had it installed in chimpy?

            • bmaz says:

              Hey JohnJ, how you been? I was working on a post I just put up and didn’t think there was anybody up over here or I would have come and visited.

  13. Bluetoe2 says:

    Don’t expect anything from the pampered and priviledged White House press corps. They are too wedded to the status quo. Shills for corporations.

  14. KellyCDenver says:

    It strikes me that a jiu-jitsu move is in order; bear with me just thinking out loud, but –

    We know the lobbyists pay the homeless to stand in line for them to keep their places for hearing rooms, etc. Well why not have a net-roots effort to make a fund to buy digital cameras and have an army of these folks armed with camers and capturing the comings and goings of EVERYBODY in and out of the White house?

    Pay them too. Min wage goes to $7.25 I believe this week; pay them a little better, say $10 per hour, plot them out a station and have them click, click, click away.

    “The Citizen’s Eyes”

    • KellyCDenver says:

      Ooops – hit submit too soon.

      Then have somebody, like Mike Stark for instance, grab the cameras, upload the pictures to a site, and people start helping identifying the visitors.

      Post prominent and not-so-prominent folks every day, and ask “What were they talking to the White House about?”

      That would be some community organizing I could believe in.

  15. fatster says:

    O/T, or return to torture.

    Ex-detainee: Gitmo abuse continues

    “In an article published by Germany’s Der Spiegel and reprinted by ABC News, Lakhdar Boumediene, who spent seven-and-a-half years at Guantanamo Bay before his release, says that, despite President Obama’s order upon taking office to end torture, beatings of prisoners continue to be widespread.
    ‘”According to Boumediene, a special guard unit continues to beat prisoners to get them out of their cells, and any official claims that such treatment has stopped are untrue,” the article states.”


    • MadDog says:

      And CREW is up with a response:

      White House Response To Crew Suit For Health Care Execs Visitor Records Insufficient

      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 (2 page PDF) 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…

      …Releasing some records because it is politically expedient to do so is not transparency…

  16. Leen says:

    Man oh man that press room is filled with a lot of white guys. Only white guys being called on. Ew when are you going to get in that room.

    Voinovich Admits GOP Opposes Health Care Reform For Political Reasons

    Obama “misinformation coming out of the Republicans”
    “politics may dictate whether they vote for health care reform”

    • bobschacht says:

      IIRC, he called on some white Ladies, too. One might think that Gwen Ifill would have enough status, but maybe the White House is not her beat.

      Bob in HI

      • Leen says:

        Not many white ladies. Obama needs to mix it up more. I know the WH press corps looks like it may be at least 80% white guys. But he should be choosing the few women who are in there to ask questions along with Helen Thomas who has a deep and wide perspective.

        Mix up the gender, race and age factor

  17. Leen says:

    I think it has been all white guys asking questions so far.

    I really like that Obama has brought up “we INHERITED an ENORMOUS deficit” at least three times

  18. Leen says:

    Obama went and said it “take the profit motive out” for Insurance companies that is almost like saying blow job for the MSM.

    then he went and said “record profits when everyone is getting hammered”

    Obama is so right when it comes to the Cleveland Clinic…amazing place

    Went there when my younger brother had heart surgery. There were so many people working in those hallways and taking care of patients it was hard to find the patients in the crowd of those tending to them

  19. Leen says:

    the press has asked about the economy, Professor Gates wonder if anyone will ask about the “Convoy of Death” in Afghanistan, or injured soldiers from Iraq, or Vets living under bridges (sure do not hear about that much anymore) must have been solved

  20. Leen says:

    I had to get up. Did Helen Thomas get to ask a question? any mix up of gender, age and race from the folks that Obama chose to ask questions.

  21. Leen says:

    Ew/all you may be interested in this interview..just finished listening
    The Other Scott Horton (no relation), international human rights lawyer, professor and contributing editor at Harper’s magazine, discusses Attorney General Eric Holder’s likely appointment of a prosecutor to investigate torture, the common misconception that the CIA pressed the White House to allow “enhanced” interrogations, Dick Cheney’s chicken-hawk tendencies and the potential bombshell Inspector General’s report on U.S. torture practices.

  22. aardvark says:

    Let’s see, you ask the Secret Service to release a list of names, the same Secret Service that has been a constant for many years irrespective of president/party, and they say no, and suddenly, the President is to blame? Good God, if the Secret Service had their way the President would never leave the White House. OF COURSE THEY SAID NO. But, the President tonight said that list would be released. I trust that it will. Well, if not, then be all over him. My one dealing with the Secret Service concerned a schizophrenic nursing home patient that made a call to the White House. The Agent was very bright, very professional, and I came away with the impression they buy Miralax by the ton. Which, by the way, is not a criticism; it is a by-product of what they get payed to do.