Wiki Spotlight

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The “Wiki Spotlight” section highlights interesting and significant information received as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests, as well as the Administration’s failure to live up to its promise of an open, accountable government.

The Obama Administration performed no cost benefit analyses of its High Speed Rail project

Despite touting the importance of the High Speed Rail to “win the future”, the Obama Administration has not conducted cost benefit analyses of its initiatives. According to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request Crossroads GPS filed with the Federal Railroad Administration, “the agency's files do not contain any records related to cost benefit analyses created by or on behalf of the Federal Railroad Administration related to the construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network, including but not limited to the $53 billion proposes spending for high-speed rail development, the Corcoran-Borden high-speed rail project, the Orlando-Tampa high-speed rail project, the Los Angeles-San Francisco high-speed rail project, or the Northeast corridor high-speed rail project, and including any abstracts or summaries of such analysis.” It is beyond irresponsible for the Administration to undertake projects using taxpayer money without first determining if there is any benefit to the enormous cost.

The failure of the Obama Administration to respond to FOIA requests

At the start of his Administration, President Barack Obama stated, “In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike. The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

That was then, this is now.

Press reports and other independent reviews have found that many organizations, journalists and citizens face clear stonewalling by the Obama Administration in trying to find out more about their government through FOIA. FOIA requests to the Administration frequently face long delays and when documents finally do arrive, aggressive redactions can make the documents virtually useless, requiring further burdensome appeals to get simple information.

It’s one more example of President Obama saying one thing and doing another. Remember his pledge to have C-SPAN televise all legislative negotiations? Uh-huh. It’s time for the judicial branch to delve into this Administration’s policy of lip-service and lax compliance regarding FOIA. We don’t need the Obama Administration to live up to the President’s lofty rhetoric. We just need it to obey the law.

Andy Griffith’s Ads Cost Taxpayers $3.66 Million

TV’s Andy Griffith was kind enough to advertise Obamacare for free last year, but his three TV spots promoting the Administration’s takeover of Americans’ healthcare cost taxpayers $3.66 million, according to figures in this letter obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services through the Freedom of Information Act. Production ran an eye-popping $404,000 and the three national buys “cost $754,000, $1,112,000, and $1,390,000 respectively.” Congratulations, America: you’re paying to be propagandized.

Obamacare may be “music to [Mr. Griffith’s] ears,” but over 1,000 employers and unions have found the law so onerous that they’ve applied for and received waivers from HHS from having to comply with it.

The Secretary of Unions

She’s the Secretary of Labor, not the “Secretary of Labor Unions,” but Hilda Solis doesn’t seem to know the difference. This FOIA response shows that from February 2009 to January 2010, Sec. Solis met, called, or attended events for union bosses on more than 40 separate occasions, totaling up to hundreds of union boss contacts over that period. At a time when less than 7 percent of private sector U.S. workers are unionized, taxpayers may wonder why Solis spends so much of her time cozying up to unions. Under Solis, the Department of Labor yanked back rules issued by the previous administration that made union finances – and labor boss conflicts of interest – more transparent. Maybe that’s what Solis and all those union bosses talked about.

The filers of this FOIA request appealed the Department of Labor’s decision to redact a large portion of Solis’ schedule. For instance, why did Solis black out the purpose for her call with AFL-CIO Leadership on September 25, 2009? Will DOL grant this appeal and let her full schedule see the light of day? Stay tuned.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Elizabeth Warren's Media Schedule

When Elizabeth Warren wasn’t meeting with bankers she regulates last fall, she spent a great deal of time preening for the news media on the taxpayers’ dime. This schedule obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows that for her first six weeks as head of the Obama Administration’s newly-minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren only went eight workdays without some kind of contact with media. In addition to mainstream journalists, Warren made time for meetings and meals with open Leftwingers like American Prospect’s Bob Kuttner, Mother Jones’ David Corn, and’s Markos Moulitsas.

The Obama Administration should also fully comply with FOIA requests covering Elizabeth Warren’s schedule and explain what needs redacting in listing Warren’s apparent communications with National Public Radio and Telemundo.

Crossroads GPS Sues the Obama Administration for Failure to Respond

Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit issue advocacy organization, filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, over the department’s repeated failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act by providing information about HHS’s “waiver” program under the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Act, also known as Obamacare. Crossroads GPS submitted its initial FOIA request to HHS on January 7, 2011, and HHS acknowledged its receipt of the request on January 11, 2011. After repeated attempts by letter, phone, email and fax to generate action on the request, no action has been taken, despite the 20 day statutory limit on fulfilling FOIA requests.

Large numbers of waivers have been granted to labor unions that strongly supported passage of Obamacare. Many of these same unions have been politically active in support of the President and his party. As HHS’s list of approved waivers crosses the 1,000-mark, it is vital that the public understand HHS’s rationale for picking winners and losers in the Obamacare waiver lottery.