White House Releases Names Of Some Visitors From Last Nine Months

October 30, 2009 12:48 p.m.

Who has bent President Obama’s ear? Or huddled with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel?

The White House just posted nearly 500 records. Check it out here, and TPMDC will update readers as we go through the names.

Norm Eisen, special counsel to Obama on ethics, detailed the release in a blog post and said the 110 requests cover from January 20, 2009 to July 31, 2009.

Eisen writes:

There’s an important lesson here as well. This unprecedented level of transparency can sometimes be confusing rather than providing clear information.

A lot of people visit the White House, up to 100,000 each month, with many of those folks coming to tour the buildings. Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few “false positives” – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else. In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly (“R. Kelly”), and Malik Shabazz). The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House. Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names.

Earlier this year in a compromise move the White House agreed to start collecting for public consumption the names of all the visitors to come through the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

They are the first administration in history to do so, and the decision was hailed by open government groups as a step forward, though some wanted clarification for who would determine which visitors names would be kept secret under the limited exceptions clause the White House left in place for security concerns.

The new policy went into effect on Sept. 15 and will only apply to visitors from that time forward. The logs will be released every 90 days, with the first ones expected around New Year’s Eve. This new document release is in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from news and ethics organizations.

The Washington Times this week reported on political donors getting special access to the White House grounds and the president. In a response, press staff reminded reporters that Obama has made the White House “the people’s house” by inviting regular Americans to visit after his inauguration and for the Easter Egg Roll.

Keep up with all of TPM’s coverage of the White House visitor logs:

TPMmuckraker’s Open Thread: Help Us Dig Through The Docs

Celebs Among Visitors At White House

Alan Greenspan Dropped By Six Times

Al Gore Visited Four Times, But Not With Obama

Corporate Visits: Exxon Chief Rex Tillerson Met With Summers, Climate Czar

The HHS Secretary Who Wasn’t Seems To Be Among Most Frequent WH Visitors

Andy Stern Appears Most Often On WH Logs Released Tonight

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