New Frontiers in OIRA Transparency

by James Goodwin

February 02, 2012

In its public meeting records, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) frequently misspells the names or affiliations of the attendees. Senator Jon Kyl was once listed as “Sen. Rul.”  And John Ikerd, affiliated with the University of Missouri (MO) and the Sierra Club, was listed as “John Ikend, University of MD/Siemen Club.”

Sometimes the misspelled names or affiliations are easy to figure out; other times they aren’t (see page 77 of our OIRA white paper from November for more examples). The public is supposed to be able to tell who these people are – that’s the whole point, transparency.

The misspellings are troublesome, but a new OIRA meeting record I just noticed takes the cake for leaving the public uninformed:

Why list the affiliation of the attendees at all?!

The occasional typo is one thing, but when OIRA gets it wrong so regularly – or now simply leaves out the affiliations of individuals seeking to influence the outcome of public health and environmental safeguards – it’s a mission-defeating problem.

The lists are only as good as the attendance sheets upon which they are based are legible and complete. There is nothing nefarious here.
— Stuart Shapiro
Seriously? You think OIRA doesn't have an affirmative obligation to capture and report the names of the people they meet with and the organizations they represent? Is it beyond OIRA's capacity to collect a business card or two at the meeting? Do the OIRA staffers in attendance honestly not know the names and affiliations of the people with whom they're meeting? They can't even get into the building without furnishing such information. Why can't OIRA manage to capture it? The obvious answer is that OIRA doesn't think transparency is a priority. Matt Freeman CPR Media Consultant
— Matt Freeman
I agree that it betrays a lack of prioritization. What I wanted to argue with is the implication that OIRA is hiding the information. I also think that you all take the meetings much more seriously than OIRA does. It is not clear whether the transparency or the meetings themselves are not prioritized. I would argue it is the latter.
— Stuart Shapiro
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Also from James Goodwin

James Goodwin, J.D., M.P.P., is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. He joined CPR in May of 2008.

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