EXCERPT--- Here at the Caribou on Pennsylvania Avenue, and a few other nearby coffee shops, White House officials have met hundreds of times over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists members of the same industry that President Obama has derided for what he calls its outsized influence in the capital.
On the agenda over espressos and lattes, according to more than a dozen lobbyists and political operatives who have taken part in the sessions, have been front-burner issues like Wall Street regulation, health care rules, federal stimulus money, energy policy and climate control and their impact on the lobbyists corporate clients.
But because the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the most transparent presidential administration in history.
The Obama administration has taken unprecedented steps to increase the openness and transparency of the White House, said Dan Pfeiffer, director of communications. We expect that all White House employees adhere to their obligations under our very stringent ethics rules regardless of who they are meeting with or where they meet.
Attempts to put distance between the White House and lobbyists are not limited to meetings. Some lobbyists say that they routinely get e-mail messages from White House staff members personal accounts rather than from their official White House accounts, which can become subject to public review. Administration officials said there were some permissible exceptions to a federal law requiring staff members to use their official accounts and retain the correspondence.
And while Mr. Obama has imposed restrictions on hiring lobbyists for government posts, the administration has used waivers and recusals more than two dozen times to appoint lobbyists to political positions. Two lobbyists also cited instances in which the White House had suggested that a job candidate be deregistered as a lobbyist in Senate records to avoid violating the administrations hiring restrictions.
A senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in a small number of cases, people might have been wrongly registered as lobbyists, based on federal standards. The official said that while the White House might have discussed such instances of possible over-registration, he was quite confident that no lobbying shop has been instructed to deregister anyone.
Many lobbyists still get in the front door at the White House nearly 1,000 times, according to a New York Times examination of public White House visitors logs and lobbying registration records. Those logs, though, present an incomplete picture. For instance, many of the entries do not reflect who actually took part in a meeting. The visitee often shows up not as the White House official who was the host, but as the administrative assistant who arranged the meeting.
Rahm Emanuel, the presidents chief of staff, has shown up several times at a closed gathering of liberal political activists and lobbyists that is held weekly at the Capital Hilton. Other Obama aides like Jim Messina, the deputy chief of staff, and Norm Eisen, the special assistant for ethics and senior aides in the Office of Management and Budget, the energy czars office and elsewhere have also taken part in off-campus meetings, lobbyists said.
Theyre here all the time all day, Andre Williams, a manager at Caribou Coffee, said of his White House customers. (He can spot White House officials by the security badges around their necks, or the Secret Service agents lurking nearby.)
Most transparent administration EVAH!! Liars.