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"Very High Grades" for Change

Norm Eisen, special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform, talks about a new report card from a group of government reform organizations on our first year.

Here at the White House, we think the Administration has had a remarkable first year making our government more accessible and accountable, including reducing special interest influence in Washington.  Today, a group of government reform organizations issued a report card on our first year– and they agree that "President Obama deserves recognition and high praise for the ethics, lobbying and transparency rules put in place for the Executive Branch during his first year in office."

The authors of the report are Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG.  They write that "The cumulative effect of the Administration’s actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities."  The report recognizes the following milestones (among others):

  • The President's revolving door lobbying ban for officials leaving government is "the most-far reaching ever adopted."  Grade:  A
  • The President's "reverse" revolving door rules for officials entering government are the "first-ever" and "innovative." Grade:  A
  • The President's open government initiatives are "unprecedented" and "go well beyond any efforts undertaken by previous administrations."  Grade A.

That’s not to say we agree with everything in the report (or for that matter, that the authors of the report agree with every single thing we have done).  There is plenty of room for honest debate about how best to fight special interests and make government more open and accountable.  But the President has made doing that a priority, the entire Administration has worked very hard to deliver, and we are pleased that folks can see that “These new rules and policies have begun the difficult process of changing the way business is done in Washington.”

There is of course much work yet to be done--and we will continue working for real change in 2010 and beyond to make government truly accessible and accountable.  We welcome the participation and collaboration of the American people in that vital work.

Incidentally, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and I will be holding a live video chat on Thursday to talk about the last year and to look ahead regarding the President's efforts to change the way Washington works.  We hope you'll come back to and join us.

Norm Eisen is special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform