Who Visited The White House (And Why You Should Care)

November 25, 2009 11:38 a.m.

Taking a step back, let’s evaluate what the release of 1,615 visitors to the White House show us.

* First, it’s a busy White House.

President Obama has often been accused of doing too much, and it’s clear from the frequency the gates open that his team has dozens of balls up in the air at once.

From health care summits, education strategy talks with state and big-city officials in the Oval Office and meetings with industry leaders to press interviews, poetry readings and the luau for members of Congress, by all accounts there is never a dull moment at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.* The logs show that Obama and his aides met with unlikely partners such as Brent Scowcroft and the Chamber of Commerce and friends like labor leaders and Eli Pariser from MoveOn.org, consulting with them on all sorts of policy during Obama’s first few months in office.

Obama huddled with Colin Powell on Afghanistan and consulted with Republicans on education and stimulus funding.

Chevron CEO David O’Reilly was among the visitors, and FCC Chairman Jules Genachowski huddled with top presidential aides before and after he was nominated for the post.

* As far as we can tell, there isn’t anything scandalous going on, but it’s also a political White House.

Candidates and politicians such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have met with the president’s political advisers. Pollsters Joel Benenson and Stan Greenberg, too.

We also learned that the White House holds regular calls and sometimes meetings with Democratic-leaning pundits to share their talking points.

Certainly not groundbreaking given the political aides who ran the Bush White House, but worth keeping an eye on.

* It’s not the full picture of what’s happening in the West Wing.

As reader MD noted in an email to us, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s name doesn’t appear on the list once. That’s because this list isn’t comprehensive. The new policy – a compromise struck after watchdog groups sued for the release of the logs – will truly be on display at the end of the year.

That’s when the full list of every single visitor – not just those requested in queries from interest groups or the press – will be posted each month for the world to see.

Norm Eisen, special counsel to Obama on ethics, explains the policy and why the list doesn’t include everyone in a blog post.

Watchdog groups have said they will keep a careful eye trained on the limited exceptions clause the White House carves out for national security. It also applies to sensitive meetings, such as potential Supreme Court nominees. Presidential aides haven’t defined who will be the arbiter of the data.

* Finally, the White House should get credit for detailing these names – they are the first administration ever to do so.

Read through the data yourself here.

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