By Mark Lisheron | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lobbyists for the nation’s largest labor unions have had the run of the White House during its occupancy by a president who pledged from his first day in office to curb political influence.
At the same time President Obama personally limited access to the wealthy and powerful, including labor leaders, union lobbyists made nearly 500 visits to the White House during the Obama administration. The records, according to a review of available White House visitors logs, run through June..
The Franklin Center created a database of the 879,401 visits by people who came to the White House for an official event or meeting from nearly 3 millions entries made up mostly of tourists.
The log was ballyhooed by the White House as “transparency like you’ve never seen before.” Indeed, it is difficult to make a comparison of official visits to the White House because past administrations didn’t provide White House logs.
The reason the logs were made public, however, was a lawsuit filed almost four years ago by the nonprofit public interest group Judicial Watch.
The fight with the U.S. Secret Service, which maintains the visitors log, continues in U.S. Appeals Court. The wholesale excising of visitors from the logs, the reasons for visits, the 90 days the government is allowed before it must release the latest entries makes a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act, said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.
Fitton calls the visitors log, such as it is, a publicity stunt.
“If the president has some issue with a certain entry in the visitors log, how are we to know what’s been done about it,” he said. “You have to be careful about the conclusions you draw from the logs.”
The log provides the visitor’s name and who invited him, the number of people included in the visit, the time and date and which room in the White House the visit took place. Sometimes, but not very often, the entry will include the reason for the visit — a Kennedy Center awards gala or a United States World Cup team photo-op with the president, for example.
As is the case with all huge but limited databases, the White House visitors log can be made to tell limitless but necessarily incomplete stories, its blank spaces begging for narratives to fill them.
What, we wondered, could the log tell us looking for the names of some of the heaviest hitters in President Obama’s orbit — his biggest donors, the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest people in America, the leaders of the 10 largest labor unions in the country and their key lobbyists?
We looked at nearly all of the 1,326 entries we found, 677 for billionaires, seven for top union officials and 49 for big-time donors.
See the entire report in http://watchdog.org