Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Transparency: Obama Administration Blocked New York Times Research Into Kagan

Remember when Obama was promising the most “open and transparent” administration in history?

Yeah, about that…

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from Hunter College High School regarding a White House effort to deny New York Times education reporter Sharon Otterman access to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s brother Irving, who currently teaches at the New York school. Otterman requested and received permission from both the school and Irving Kagan to attend one of Mr. Kagan’s constitutional law classes before White House Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest intervened. “I’m definitely not comfortable with that at this point,” Earnest wrote to Ms. Otterman on May 11, 2010.

Earnest instructed Irving Kagan in an email on May 11 to direct press inquiries directly to the White House:

“This reporter says she has permission from you and from the school to sit in on your class. I’ve articulated my concerns to the [Hunter College public relations representative] Meredith [Halpern] – who now says she agrees with me. I’ve articulated my concerns to the reporter, who’s feeling misled that we’re telling her no and she says she was told yes.

“In the future, it’s important to direct all reporter inquiries to the White House. It’ll be easier for you to stay out of the middle of these conversations if you send them directly to us without responding.”

I’m not sure what the Times could possibly have learned about Elena Kagan by auditing a course taught by her brother, or why the White House would object to it, but clearly this is yet another instance of Obama’s heavy-handed tactics with the media. Not to mention a failure to live up to the standards for transparency and openness he himself set.

What I’m also wondering is why the Times never reported that they were blocked from auditing the course? Again, the audit itself seems like a small matter, but President Hopey Change promised better. And the breaking of that promise is news.