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Health care transparency takes a back seat at White House

C-SPAN is taking the White House to task by asking to be part of the backroom deals this week as the House and Senate health care reform bills are merged into one giant piece of legislation. C-SPAN wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

According to the letter sent by C-SPAN to Congressional leaders, the network requested a more serious effort by members inside backroom meetings regarding health care so they can televise the last minute shenanigans for the American people.

“The C-SPAN networks will commit the necessary resources to covering all of these sessions ‘Live’ and in their entirety. We will also, as we willingly do each day, provide C-SPAN’s multi-camera coverage to any interested member of the Capitol Hill broadcast pool,” the letter read.

Those in the media, Congress as well as President Obama himself have talked about the importance of transparency during the process of health care debate. Stepping up on their intentions to remind the White House of their promises, C-SPAN said, “Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of ever single American.”

Well over a year ago on the campaign trail, Obama told every reporter and camera who would listen that his administration would be completely transparent.

“The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails,” Obama told government offices on his first day as president. “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”

Jeff Stachewicz, the founder of Washington-based FOIA Group Inc., which files hundreds of requests every month on behalf of companies, law firms and news organizations said; “This administration, when it wants something done, there are no excuses. You just don’t see a big movement toward transparency.”

A few weeks back the Associated Press wrote a scathing article regarding the lack of transparency the Obama White House has been providing. “Those with any sense of decency, any sense of moral rightness, any common sense, will see this administration for what it is…”

While transparency met with resistance on some important issues, the Obama Administration produced information only after watchdogs and journalists spent weeks or months pressing, in some cases it took lawsuits to recover documents.

The documents procured from the resistant government included what cars people were buying using the $3 billion “Cash for Clunkers” program (it turns out most trades involved trucks for trucks with only slightly better gas mileage); how many times airplanes have crashed into birds (a ton); if lobbyists and donors meet with the Obama White House (they do); rules for the interrogation of terror suspects (the FBI and CIA continue to disagree over what is permitted); and who was negotiating with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (he has close relationships with a lot of Wall Street fat cats whose multibillion-dollar companies survived the economic crisis with his assistance).

If there is anything transparent about the new administration it is the lack of transparency.

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