Obama White House doesn't show up to House probe into its lack of transparency 

The Republican-led House Energy and Commerce's subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is holding a hearing on the Obama White House's lack of transparency, but the White House did not send any representatives to testify, despite a GOP request.

Though President Obama vowed to run a transparent administration and to bar lobbyists, the reality has been quite different.

Republicans on the committee highlighted reports that lobbyists started deregistering from the official lobbying disclosure system in 2008 as Obama spoke of not allowing them to hold positions in the White House, and the deregistration rate spiked in 2009 once Obama announced the policy. Meanwhile, the committee said, that "White House staff have purposely and repeatedly circumvented ... visitor logs by meeting with lobbyists at Caribou Coffee and other locations outside of the White House."

Subcommittee chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., also noted that the Obama administration granted 32 waivers from the lobbying ban.

One of the witnesses, Anne Weismann, is the chief counsel of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a transparency group that had to sue to the Obama administration to get it to release visitor logs that are supposed to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

President Obama has said that, "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails." Yet the committee argued, "Unfortunately, like so many of the President's other transparency policies, the policy has no teeth -- there is no system in place to monitor compliance and no enforcement mechanism in place to penalize agencies that adopt a different presumption."

Weissman said that what concerns her the most is what's going on at the agency level.

In addition to Weissman, the committee is hearing testimony from Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch and John Wonderlich,  policy director Sunlight Foundation.

But the Obama administration did not send a representative to testify as Republicans had requested.

In the White House's defense, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said that because the GOP only gave six days notice and wouldn't rescheduled the hearing, it was understandable that administration officials would have conflicts that prevented them from appearing before the committee.

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Philip Klein

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