I was sent over the edge today at work when I started to read the President’s newly released Open Government Directive and the Progress Report to the American People on Open Government. I think it is great to promote openness, innovation and transparency in the Government. But I am sent over the edge when the first Chapter of the Progress Report is actually titled: Let The Sun Shine In: Welcoming the New Era of Open Government. This is so far from the current environment it drives me crazy that someone could even publish this! Let’s compare that rhetoric with what I am witnessing first hand.
I have the least amount of access and information from the Executive Branch and Executive Agencies then I have had in the 10 years I have been in D.C. I have hosted two meetings with Cabinet Secretaries that have been so tightly controlled I was embarrassed to tell anyone. Prior to that meetings I was told who to invite, who not to invite, what to talk about, and what topics should not be mentioned. I was actually asked if I thought I could control my members prior to the meeting so as not to embarrass the Cabinet Secretary. As a lobbyist I have been in meetings where the government official asked, “Is anyone in here a registered lobbyist?” Since I wear the scarlet L of a lobbyist, I was asked to leave. For one agency I am required to route all speaking requests not to the guest of honor but to a speakers bureau who will decide who should and should not come speak to my members and what they can discuss.
So when I see: Let The Sun Shine In: Welcoming the New Era of Open Government I have to laugh. I think these people are drinking the Kool-Aid. Furthermore, this makes me go off on my Lobbyist rant. (The document actually discuss the “undue influence” of lobbyists!) Every time I turn around Lobbyist are being villainized. Granted, there have been some horrible people who have done horrible things who were lobbyists…so I am okay with some smear on the profession. But I object to providing a negative stereo type to the entire profession. You see it all the time (you have bad lawyer jokes, anti-police sentiment, wall street executives might be more hated than lobbyists today).
But I want to remind that you that the lobbying profession in one of the only professions EXPLICITLY provided for in the Constitution of the United States.
First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Things have gotten so far out of hand that we make a blanket restriction (access to government officials) on a class of people (Lobbyists). But lobbyists serve an important purpose in the government process. You need someone to bring groups of people together behind a cause and represent them before their Government. You have all kinds of lobbyists: those that represent the homeless, those that represent the disabled, those that represent people with Cancer, those that represent labor unions, those that represent rubber tire manufactures. All of these groups have constituents, and those constituents have the right to be represented. Maybe you are passionate about increasing the funds spent on Cancer Research. What is more powerful…you writing your Congressman and visiting executives at Health & Human Services and the President? Or you and 1.2 million people that believe the same as you? You and your 1.2 million friends who can speak with one message, and ask for one thing, increased funding for cancer research. Lobbyists represent these constituent groups.
I don’t have a problem saying the system is broken, but quit taking the easy way out and blaming it on me. Do something! Quit publishing progress reports that are so in the clouds they don’t even come close to reality. Is cutting off access for a group of people really Open Government? I think not. We have major problems right now and I would rather expend our energy solving those then publishing reports that border on propaganda.
Again, as I keep saying, I don’t want a Rock Star, I want an executive leader. I want a decision maker, I want an executer of vision. I don’t want sound bites, campaigns, and rock star performances… I can get that at the local theater. And I darn sure don’t want some report with a bogus chapter titled “Let the Sun Shine In: The New Era of Open Government”.
Signed – Disillusioned in D.C….again