Six years later, we know that President Obama's pledge to run the most transparent administration in history was merely a campaign promise, a talking point, and not a statement of management style. We've seen a series of highly public scandals — Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, NSA, and now, the Department of Veterans Affairs — where Oversight Committees have fought to pry information out of the Obama White House only to receive stacks of redacted documents.
Most recently, we've seen court-ordered information provided to nonprofit government watchdog groups in response to Freedom of Information Act requests that have made it very clear why the administration wanted to keep specific contents hidden. Emails that revealed direct White House involvement in the Benghazi scandal are behind the creation of the new select committee. IRS documents show the tea party targeting wasn't a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati, as the Obama administration claimed — instead, now we know it was orchestrated out of Washington, D.C. Briefing materials point out that the Obama administration has known about problems with VA hospital wait times since 2009.
FOIA requests must be the bane of the "most transparent administration in history."
There are other cases that haven't yet reached "scandal" status where the Administration doesn't want the public to know the rationale behind the policy that is universally having a negative impact on all Americans. These stories point to the administrations' use of bad science to achieve its goal of growing government and controlling people through the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act. Together the practices restrict access to public and private lands for farming, ranching, and energy development, and reduce the availability of affordable electricity — making essential food and power costs ever-increasing.
In New Mexico, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Forest Service are preventing cattle ranchers from accessing water to which two different court rulings have declared the ranchers have rights. According to a report in the Daily Caller: "New Mexico's current conflict involves 23 acres along the Aqua Chiquita creek and natural springs, now fenced off for the benefit of the newly protected meadow jumping mouse."
Addressing the specific protections for the mouse, the report points out the "decades of scientific controversy over whether the meadow jumping mouse was a 'valid subspecies' or whether it really was vanishing." It also cites current research from the University of New Mexico with recommendations that would lead to a re-evaluation of the listing.
The report states: "Yet scrutiny of EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] determinations and analysis of competing findings is foreclosed by sweetheart deals between environmental advocacy groups and the EPA in 'sue and settle' schemes." It continues: "This collaboration between two friendly parties to co-opt the courts into bypassing constitutionally prescribed safeguards and protections denies local governments, harmed parties, and the public in general a seat at the table."
While the Daily Caller piece doesn't specifically reference the Information Quality Act, enacted by Congress in 2000, it is one of the safeguards and protections required for scientific information used as the basis for regulatory action. The act requires "all federal bureaucrats to 'prove up' their claims and data so others in local government and land-use managers could rely on it to make wise and proper management decisions," explains Dan Byfield, CEO of American Stewards of Liberty.
In a Ranch Magazine article titled "Verify the science," Byfield showed how the act can be used to prevent environmental organizations from "manipulating our government and federal statutes to their benefit and the detriment of everyone else." He worked successfully with eight counties in the Permian Basin to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the dunes sagebrush lizard as endangered. He states: "What we found was anything but credible science. ... and this is true with almost every proposed listing."
Taking the act a step further, earlier this year the Institute for Trade Standards and Sustainable Development filed FOIA requests regarding the science underpinning the EPA's 2009 greenhouse gas endangerment findings — identifying six greenhouse gasses as posing a risk of endangerment to public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.
An institute press release states: "The objective of the FOIA requests has been to secure disclosure of government records substantiating each agency's compliance with the provisions of the U.S. Information Quality Act." The institute asserts that, based on its research, the required "peer review science process has likely been compromised on conflict of interest, independence/bias, peer review panel balance, and transparency grounds." Additionally, the press release claims that peer review comments regarding scientific uncertainties were ignored.
The institute believes that The EPA's endangerment ruling — which has triggered costly and burdensome greenhouse gas emissions control regulations and proposed performance standards that would restrict new fossil fuel-based energy generation facilities — is based on bad science and is seeking records regarding the climate science-related peer review processes.
Requests for information are being stonewalled.
With knowledge of the way the most transparent administration in history operates, one can reasonably conclude that the institute's FOIA requests are being slow walked because it has hit upon an area of vulnerability that the administration would rather keep hidden. The requested documents would likely require a reexamination of the EPA's greenhouse gas endangerment findings that would render them invalid.
The closer one looks, the more clear it becomes. The only thing transparent about the Obama administration is its motives for hiding the truth.