Since assuming office, however, President Obama and his administration have demonstrated a complete disregard for that particular campaign promise. In fact, rather than establish higher standards of transparency and accountability, the Obama Administration has willfully ignored many of the existing rules and regulations designed by previous Congresses and Presidents to ensure an open and transparent government.
President Obama and his Cabinet appear all too willing to sacrifice government accountability if it will protect his administration and political allies from public scrutiny.
In instance after instance, the Obama administration has circumvented existing transparency safeguards to cover up political missteps and questionable actions.
Over the past year, Republican Members of Congress have attempted to shed some light on the administration's actions, and have questioned several of the clandestine measures the administration has taken. With few exceptions, the Obama administration has declined to respond to any of Congress' requests for more information about many of the key actions the administration has taken in past months.
ObamaCare, one of the biggest political liabilities for Democrats, is one area where the Obama administration has stubbornly refused to yield to government accountability measures. By design, this law diminishes accountability and empowers unelected officials to make broad, sweeping decisions in health care matters. The net impact of allowing bureaucrats to make significant policy decisions is reduced transparency, as bureaucrats are never forced to answer to voters through elections.
The Obama administration has steadfastly refused to be held accountable for the private scheme HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has devised to award ObamaCare waivers and exemptions. Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act grants vast authorities and new powers to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, those powers are not without limits. However, Secretary Sebelius has – with blatant disregard for the Constitution – given herself an even wider array of decision-making powers.
On the occasions when Congress has challenged the curious practice of awarding ObamaCare waivers and exemptions, the White House and Health and Human Services have declined to explain the specifics of the waiver process. How, exactly, does a company get a waiver? What are the criteria? Who determines if the company satisfies the criteria? These are all questions the Department of Health and Human Services would prefer not to have to answer.
In another instance of secrecy related to ObamaCare, the Obama Justice Department is refusing to produce the emails that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan sent from her government computer when she was solicitor general. The issue at hand is her involvement in helping the Justice Department defend ObamaCare's individual mandate in court. Her involvement, which those emails would certainly confirm, would be justifiable grounds to ask Justice Kagan to recuse herself from hearing any arguments before the Supreme Court about ObamaCare.
The lack of transparency is not limited to ObamaCare, of course. The Solyndra scandal – a recent cause of embarrassment for the President – is another area where the administration prefers to obscure the facts and bury the truth. The White House continues to conceal information about the process of awarding a taxpayer-funded loan to Solyndra, the company that has since declared bankruptcy. In response to the White House's refusal to release documents related to Solyndra, Congressional leaders are now considering subpoenaing those records.
This policy of minimal transparency in the executive branch manifests itself elsewhere, too. Last month, the Department of Justice proposed altering the Freedom of Information practices to conceal records and mislead the public, saying certain records do not exist. After much public outcry, the Justice Department withdrew its proposed regulation.
Another scandal at the Justice Department, the ongoing drama surrounding Fast and Furious, is yet another example of the administration's tendency to distort the truth. Throughout the unfolding of this news story, Attorney General Eric Holder's approach has consistently been to conceal his department's knowledge and involvement, and it is now clear that Holder lied repeatedly under oath about Fast and Furious.
The lack of transparency spans across the executive branch and is not isolated in one agency. It should be clear that the system-wide lack of transparency and refusal to account for official activities comes from the Chief Executive, Obama.
Having abandoned any plans to bring greater transparency to Washington, President Obama's team is now willing to forfeit existing accountability standards and laws in the pursuit of political objectives.
In 2008, Candidate Obama established an easy campaign message: bringing more accountability and openness to Washington. In 2012, he will have the difficult task of accounting to voters and explaining why his administration strayed so far from those campaign pledges.
Shonda Werry is a former Capitol Hill staffer and a contributing editor for A Line of Sight.