In September, the President announced that – for the first time in history – the White House would release visitor records. Last month, the White House released more than 25,000 visitor records from September 16 to September 30 as provided in the President’s voluntary disclosure policy. Today, we continue to fulfill President’s commitment to transparency by making available more than 75,000 White House visitor records from the month of October.
Like last month, today’s release includes visitor information for the Vice President and his staff at the White House Complex, the names and dates of visitors to the Vice President’s Residence for the official events between October 1 and October 31, and the visitors to the Residence who appear on the daily schedules of the Vice President and Dr. Biden.
In addition, included in today’s release are over 200 pre-Sept 16 visitor records that are responsive to more than 100 specific requests that the White House received from the public during the month of December.
Today’s release builds upon the previous series of visitor record disclosures. In October, the White House released close to 500 records in response to 110 requests that were received throughout September. In November, the White House released 1,600 records in response to nearly 300 individual requests received throughout October. You can view them all in our Disclosures section.
Today’s release is only one example of the many steps the President has taken to increase government transparency over the past year. This Administration’s concrete commitments to openness include issuing the Open Government Directive, putting up more government information than ever before on data.gov and recovery.gov, reforming the government’s FOIA processes, providing on-line access to White House staff financial reports and salaries, issuing an executive order to fight unnecessary secrecy and speed declassification, reversing an executive order that previously limited access to presidential records, and webcasting White House meetings and conferences. The release also compliments our new lobbying rules, which in addition to closing the revolving door for lobbyists who work in government have also emphasized expanding disclosure of lobbyist contacts with the government.
These efforts were recognized by a consortium of independent outside government reform groups that gave the Administration an A for its first-year actions making government open and transparent. And in this week’s State of the Union, the President laid out a bold agenda for pressing forward on government transparency and reform.
Also, as we have previously noted, sometimes rather than providing clear information, transparency can have confusing or amusing results. Given the significant number of visitors to the White House, many visitors share the same name. Today's release includes the names of some notable figures (for example, Louis Farrakhan and James Taylor appear in this disclosure). The well-known individuals with those names have not visited the White House, but we have included the records of the individuals that did.
Finally, last month we noted that a small set of the September records were being withheld in order to conclude a national security review. That process has concluded and those records are included in this month’s release.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform