Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Refreshing Change

As a member of so many political e-mail lists, I occasionally receive an interesting one. Such a message arrived in my inbox yesterday. It's purportedly a memo sent by John Podesta, the Obama transition team's co-chair, about transparency during the transition process. It reads like a policy memo, so presumably that's what it is. I don't really know any more than that, but the content is interesting and, if it turns out to actually be the Obama Administration's policy, refreshing:

From: John Podesta
To: All Obama-Biden Transition Project Staff
Date: December 4, 2008
Re: "Seat at the Table" Transparency Policy -- EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

As an extension of the unprecedented ethics guidelines already in place for the Obama-Biden Transition Project, we take another significant step towards transparency of our efforts for the American people. Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the Transition and the Administration, both orally and in writing. We want to ensure that we give the American people a "seat at the table" and that we receive the benefit of their feedback.

Accordingly, any documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on. In addition to presenting ideas as individuals at, the American people deserve a "seat at the table" as we receive input from organizations and make decisions. In the interest of protecting the personal privacy of individuals, this policy does not apply to personnel matters and hiring recommendations.

The following information will be posted on our website:
1. Documents: All policy documents(1) and written policy recommendations from official meetings(2) with outside organizations.
2. Meetings: The date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices, with any documents presented as noted above.

This scope is a floor, not a ceiling, and all staff are strongly encouraged to include additional materials. Such materials could include documents (recommendations, press releases, etc.) presented in smaller meetings or materials or made public by the outside organization without a connection to an official meeting.

If you have any questions as to whether documents should be included, please email [REDACTED].

Prior to an official meeting with an outside organization or organizations, Obama-Biden Transition Project staff members will inform attendees that any documents provided will be posted on our "Seat at the Table" website found at Suggested language for email invitations is: "By presenting or submitting any document at a meeting with the Obama-Biden Transition Project, you agree to allow the document to be made public and posted on" At the completion of each meeting or upon receipt of such documents, Transition staff will provide the documents to [REDACTED] with the date of the meeting, a list of the organizations in attendance, and the topic of the meeting.

1) This policy does not apply to non-public or classified information acquired from the Agency Review Process and internal memorandum.
2) An "official meeting" is defined as a meeting with outside organizations or representatives of those organizations to which three or more outside participants attend.
Copyright policy:

Except for the added emphasis of that one sentence, I have altered nothing in the text. The bracketed items, "[REDACTED]" and the like, are from the original e-mail.

After eight years of what amounts to an "up yours" from the current administration to just about any request for transparency, this is a refreshing change. I hope that it is a sincere pronouncement.

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