White House Shakes Up Ethics Team
President Obama’s “ethics czar,” is going to Europe as an ambassador — and it’s causing anxiety among government watchdog groups who admire the work accomplished under his watch. Norman Eisen, who founded a government oversight group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington before joining the administration, instituted a number of reforms since Obama’s first day in office:
The administration began posting online a partial log of White House visitors, and it instituted policies aimed at responding more quickly and completely to Freedom of Information Act requests from journalists, academics and the public. It has also restricted the hiring of lobbyists within the administration, banned gifts from lobbyists and taken other steps to slow the “revolving door” between government and the private sector.
But for transparency junkies, it wasn’t all roses:
On transparency issues, the administration has raised concerns among open-government advocates by regularly using the “state secrets” privilege to continue keeping some national security issues out of public view, and Mr. Obama reversed course last year and refused to make public photos showing abuses of terrorism detainees. The controversy over the public release of some 90,000 documents from the Afghanistan war by the group WikiLeaks could result in more pressure to limit public disclosures.
And then there’s superlobbyist Tony Podesta, who jokingly hailed Eisen’s departure ”the biggest lobbying success we’ve had all year.” Maybe the watchdog groups have good reason to be worried after all.