Execitiove Editor of Accuracy In Media
Roger Aronoff — March 31, 2016
For all of President Obama’s assurances that his administration would be the most transparent in history, it has been anything but. Yet the mainstream media fail to cover, again and again, evidence of a corrupt administration hiding regulations from Congress and controlling the press.
President Obama continues to lecture the press on how to do its job properly, criticizing the depth of reporting on the election. “I think the electorate would be better served if we spent less time focused on the he said/she said back-and-forth of our politics,” said President Obama on March 28 at the 2016 Toner Prize ceremony. “If I say that the world is round and someone else says it’s flat, that’s worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round,” he continued. “And that shouldn’t be buried in paragraph five or six of the article.”
As we have often reported, the media bury information damaging to the Obama administration deep within their articles—if they publish it at all. Yet Obama criticizes the mainstream media for the very techniques that help him emerge unscathed from scandal after scandal.
As Accuracy in Media (AIM) chairman Don Irvine points out, members of the media have found Obama’s posturing insulting. “There’s a man lecturing the media on how to do their business,” Joe Scarborough responded, according to The Washington Examiner. “The man who has not sat down for an extended interview with The Washington Post in seven and a half years, and yet gladly submits himself to being interviewed by YouTube stars who sit in bathtubs with milk and Froot Loops.”
Occasionally reporters acknowledge how far the administration has gone in stifling the free press. “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David Sanger of The New York Times. Similarly, his Times colleague James Risen has called the administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.”
It is one thing to block the press and public from accessing national security secrets or other sensitive information, but it is another to deny Congress the opportunity to review the regulations that the federal government is putting into effect.
“The Obama administration imposed over 1,000 new rules, one-third of all proposed in 2015, without first following the law and giving Congress a look and chance to kill them, according to a new report,” writes Paul Bedard for The Washington Examiner. “The Congressional Review Act (CRA) requires that agencies pass new rules by Congress before they are imposed, explaining the impact of each and whether they will have a major or minor economic impact.”
In other words, President Obama is using his executive discretion to hide many of his unilateral actions from Congress, making it all the more easy for him to wield executive powers by fiat with no real accountability.
“Under the CRA, ‘before a rule can take effect,’ every federal agency must submit a report to both Congress and GAO [Government Accountability Office] with a copy of the rule, a statement about whether the rule is ‘major,’ and the effective date of the measure,” states Sam Batkins for the think-tank American Action Forum, which issued the study. “Technically, a rule that fails to follow this procedure cannot take effect.” Also, regulations which were not marked “major” later received that label from the GAO.
Excluding reporting from The Hill and The Washington Examiner, this information, which shows that the Obama administration has been trying to fool Congress, was met with a mainstream media blackout. After all, it might embarrass Obama to show that, once again, he is not playing by the rules, or respecting freedom of the press or the will of the people by working with their elected representatives. Nor is he faithfully executing the laws of the land.
But the administration has taken things even further, and is hiding information from average Americans. Not only is the Obama administration hiding regulations, it is also hiding data normally subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
In response to Obama’s March 28 speech, one reporter tweeted, “Hey thanks Obama for your chill comments on journalism, maybe tell the FBI to fulfill a FOIA in less than a year while you’re at it.”
“For instance, in March 2015, the Obama administration rescinded a regulation requiring the administration to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, thereby exempting itself from public scrutiny and oversight,” writes H. Sterling Burnett in an opinion piece for Forbes. “So much for transparency.”
Burnett, who is a research fellow for the Heartland Institute, argues that it is unsurprising that President Obama’s term has been marked by secrecy. He writes that over 250,000, or 39 percent, of FOIA requests were “either censored or denied.” The government found that approximately 200,000 requests were unreasonable or lacked responsive information.
The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi (CCB), formed by AIM in 2013, has experienced the administration’s lack of transparency first hand. The administration has answered the CCB’s Benghazi FOIA requests with blacked out pages that contain little pertinent information. For example, the Department of Defense provided slides pertaining to a “Benghazi Timeline,” where everything but the title was redacted.
Sometimes, as with Judicial Watch, watchdogs have to take the administration to court to receive any information at all.
“To avoid having the names of environmental lobbyists appear on agency visitor logs, EPA employees met them at nearby cafes, parks and at townhouses,” writes Burnett. “After this practice became known, officials fought against disclosure in court, arguing the names and dates were immune to FOIA requests.”
The news that Hillary Clinton was using a private email address had to be broken through a congressional investigation by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, rather than FOIA requests.
All this helps illuminate why left-wing publications and pundits continue to claimthat President Obama’s administration is “scandal free.” Administration officials simply fail to release information about their malfeasance.
Yes, the Veterans Administration scandal caused Secretary Erik Shinseki to resign, but there have been few repercussions for other VA staffers. The public also still awaits justice for the IRS scandal, Fast & Furious, and Benghazi. Now the administration faces its biggest challenge, which will determine whether the U.S. has become a banana republic: Will Hillary Clinton be indicted?
The fact that the mainstream media have no interest in these latest revelations of how this administration is circumventing Congress and the rule of law is just another example of how they want to bury another Democrat scandal. If the Obama administration does bury the case against Hillary Clinton and her transmission of classified information on a private email server—or the other investigation into public corruption and pay-for-play—and the media play along, we will know that our country no longer stands for equal justice under the law.