Citing an argument used by the Bush administration, the Secret Service rejects a request from a watchdog group to list those who have visited the White House to discuss the healthcare overhaul.
By Peter Nicholas
July 22, 2009
Reporting from Washington — Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the Secret Service asking about visits from 18 executives representing health insurers, drug makers, doctors and other players in the debate. The group wants the material in order to gauge the influence of those executives in crafting a new healthcare policy.
The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics said it would file suit against the Obama administration as early as today. The group already has sued the administration over its failure to release details about visits from coal industry executives.
A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said, "We are reviewing our policy on access to visitor logs and related litigation."
As a candidate, President Obama vowed that in devising a healthcare bill he would invite in TV cameras -- specifically C-SPAN -- so that Americans could have a window into negotiations that normally play out behind closed doors.