Monday, December 08, 2008

Obama: "Your Seat at the Table" Transparency Policy

Dec 5: In a memo the Obama-Biden Transition Project Co-chair John Podesta announced that all policy documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be publicly available for review and discussion on the transition website The Transition Team said, "This means we're inviting the American public to take a seat at the table and engage in a dialogue about these important issues and ideas -- at the same time members of our team review these documents themselves."

The announcement includes a video from the Obama Administration Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs Michael Strautmanis providing an overview of this unique program. On December 5, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Christina M. Tchen will serve as White House Director of Public Liaison and Michael Strautmanis will serve as Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison [See link to release below].

The announcement indicates that, "Talking face-to-face with advocates and experts is a vital part of the Transition. But in past transitions, meetings like these took place behind closed doors and lacked the public input and transparency we're working hard to provide." In the Memo to all Obama Transition staff, Podesta says, "As an extension of the unprecedented ethics guidelines already in place for the Obama-Biden Transition Project [See WIMS 11/12/08], we take another significant step towards transparency of our efforts for the American people. Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the Transition and the Administration, both orally and in writing. We want to ensure that we give the American people a 'seat at the table' and that we receive the benefit of their feedback. Accordingly, any documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on. In addition to presenting ideas as individuals at, the American people deserve a “seat at the table” as we receive input from organizations and make decisions. In the interest of protecting the personal privacy of individuals, this policy does not apply to personnel matters and hiring recommendations."

The Memo states further: "The following information will be posted on our website: 1. Documents: All policy documents and written policy recommendations from official meetings with outside organizations. 2. Meetings: The date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices, with any documents presented as noted above. This scope is a floor, not a ceiling, and all staff are strongly encouraged to include additional materials. Such materials could include documents (recommendations, press releases, etc.) presented in smaller meetings or materials or made public by the outside organization without a connection to an official meeting."

On the "Your Seat at the Table" website the information is organized chronologically and can also be searched. Each item that is listed includes a link to the documents. Additionally, each listing includes an option to: view or leave a comment and to submit ideas or documents about this entry. As an example, the following is a listing of some items:

- “Our Opposition to ‘Multi-Pollutant’ Legislation and Support for CAIR Fix”
- “Support the IBEW-Boilermakers-UMWA-AEP international provision in climate change legislation.”
- “These recommendations, respectfully submitted to the transition team for its consideration, were compiled by a broad coalition of leading national environmental and conservation groups.”
- “We urge the next President of the United States to include SSP as a new start in a balanced federal strategy for energy independence and environmental stewardship.”
- “Summary of the September 2007 Water Policy Dialogue and a copy of the letter sent to the President, all governors, and key leaders in Congress.”
- “Western Governors are very concerned that during our nation’s deepening energy crisis, the United States lacks an effective long-term energy policy.”
- “Taken in total, the recommendations in this report propose a transformational role for government. It calls for reconnecting our government with all of us, “We, the people.””

Access the Team announcement (click here). Access the Memo from Podesta (click here). Access the "Your Seat at the Table" website (click here). Access the Transition Energy & Environment sections where the Obama plan is outlined and ideas and comments may be submitted (click here). Access a release on the two new appointments (click here). Access the website for additional information (click here). [Note: WIMS has added a link to the Obama Transition website on the homepage under "Executive Office" (click here).]