Yet More Obama Secrecy: Won’t Release Info On Visits From Health-Care Execs

July 22, 2009 6:06 a.m.

And the beat goes on….

Here’s the latest example of the Obama White House mimicking its predecessor’s reflexive preference for secrecy over openness: the administration has turned down a request from a good-government group to release the names of the health-industry execs who have gone to the White House to discuss health-care reform, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had sent a letter to the Secret Service asking for the names of the 18 industry execs. But in response, the Secret Service said it considered the names to be presidential records, and therefore not subject to public disclosure laws. That was the argument used by the Bush administration to justify not releasing the names of the oil industry execs who were part of Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force in 2001. CREW now says it will file suit.

This isn’t a new position for the Obama White House. Last month, in response to another request from CREW, it refused to release information on visitors from the coal and energy industries, citing the same argument over presidential records. CREW is now suing for those records too. The White House also turned down a request from for a list of all White House visitors since President Obama took office.

CREW seems to already have information on some of the health-care industry chieftains. In its letter to the White House, reports the LAT, it asked about visits by Billy Tauzin, the president of PhrRMA, Karen Ignagni, the president of the top health insurance trade group, William Weldon, the CEO of Johnson & Johnso, and J. James Rohack, the AMA president, among others.

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When President Obama took office, he promised a new era of openness and transparency. But on many secrecy issues, his administration has not significantly differed from President Bush’s.

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