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HUD to rental policy groups: Sign agreement, stay quiet
Politico ^ | 16 FEB 2011 | Chris Frates

Posted on 02/17/2011 7:08:14 PM PST by HushTX

Obama administration officials told a group of housing proponents this month that they must sign a confidentiality agreement to continue participating in talks — a highly unusual request that has drawn criticism from a top Republican lawmaker who is investigating the matter.

The agreement, obtained by POLITICO, bars participants from disclosing details discussed at meetings of a rental policy working group, but it has angered some lobbyists and drawn congressional scrutiny.

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“How can they go around and pat themselves on the back as the most transparent administration in history and then turn around and ask lobbyists to sign nondisclosure agreements to keep their meetings secret,” said a lobbyist whose organization was at the Feb. 4 meeting. “It’s like extortion. We’re not going to be able to do our jobs unless we have secret meetings with them.”

Republican Rep. Judy Biggert, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services subcommittee that oversees HUD, received a copy of the nondisclosure agreement from a source who did not attend the meeting, said spokesman Zachary Cikanek.

“If it’s true that the administration is requiring nondisclosure agreements, then HUD has some very serious explaining to do,” he said. “This type of gag order represents a compete reversal of the administration’s own well-publicized transparency standards and I’m confident the congresswoman will seek immediate answers from HUD as to why industry participants are being told to keep quiet if they want a seat at the table.”

An administration official defended the practice saying, “The Obama administration makes it a point to seek input from stakeholders and key constituencies as we develop our policy positions. We will continue to engage a broad range of stakeholders, and will do so in a way that maintains the integrity of our decision-making process.”

The nondisclosure agreement covered participants in the “White House’s rental policy working group,” which includes officials from the departments of Agriculture, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development. The group is tasked with streamlining the administrative requirements of the departments’ various rental programs.

“I will maintain the confidentially of information disclosed to me or otherwise learned during the course of my collaborative relationship with the federal government parties,” according to a copy of the nondisclosure agreement obtained by POLITICO.

“I will not, without the written permission of HUD, reveal, divulge or publicize any information covered under this agreement or disseminate any oral, written, or electronic information obtained under this collaboration,” according to the agreement.

Administration officials first brought up the nondisclosure agreement during a Feb. 4 meeting of the working group, according to a lobbyist familiar with the meetings. At a Feb. 11 meeting, the officials distributed an addendum to the agreement, which slightly loosened the strict prohibitions.

The addendum allowed information to be shared with a third party if several criteria are met, including a requirement that written documents aren’t shared, the third party is a “working relation” with discretion and agrees to keep the information confidential.

Stakeholders were asked to sign the nondisclosure agreement before draft documents began circulating.

“As the process continued and working documents were going to be circulated, the agencies requested that participating individuals sign a nondisclosure agreement, which protects pre-decisional discussions and helps maintain the open discourse between agency officials and stakeholder organizations,” an administration official said.

It was not immediately clear how many lobbyists and other stakeholders signed on to the agreement. A number of organizations that reportedly attended the meeting did not return calls or declined to comment.

Judy Kennedy, president of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, said in her three decades of Washington experience she has only seen a nondisclosure agreement used during a negotiations over writing new regulations.

“I can’t believe that (HUD) Secretary (Shaun) Donovan would think it’s a smart move to say that you can’t stay unless you sign this agreement,” she said, adding that she was not part of the working group. “I can’t believe that he would authorize a gag order.”

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TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Government
KEYWORDS: obama; transparency
Transparent as a rock.
1 posted on 02/17/2011 7:08:19 PM PST by HushTX
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To: HushTX

Let’s see:

1. HUD spends around $43 Billion a year
2. Republicans own the House
3. HUD refuses to play by the rules
4. Republicans own the House

Why not defund them?

2 posted on 02/17/2011 7:17:14 PM PST by BobL (PLEASE READ:
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To: HushTX

transparency looking mighty opaque...

3 posted on 02/17/2011 7:19:15 PM PST by GeronL ( for FR backup site!)
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To: HushTX

Transperacy is so clear Obama is looking through the special darkened glass so you can look at a eclipse of the sun. It is so dark that you can only see through to look at the sun. Opps this may not be considerd a racist comment because the issue of opaqeness may signify something is black or rather dark.

This is sad, a school yard bully whom wants others to do his work, he will take credit for the ideas that work and say look at what i did. Ask John Mccain about how many times the junior senator from Illinois took crdit for ideas thatthey discussed, Obama went to the democratic leadership, look what I have developed he gets the praise and John McCain gets pissed off.

4 posted on 02/17/2011 7:34:22 PM PST by hondact200 (Candor dat viribos alas (sincerity gives wings to strength) and Nil desperandum (never despair))
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To: HushTX

I pay $745.00 a month for my apartment.
Some people in my complex pay $200.00 a month, or less, for the same size unit.
HUD pays the rest, supposedly.
My tax dollars pay for HUD.

Nobody is going to give me any kind of grace period if I can’t pay my rent on time because my car breaks down, or I have to pay for unexpected medical bills.

HUD people get a sixty day grace period.

How can I get on HUD?

5 posted on 02/17/2011 7:39:49 PM PST by sarasmom
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To: sarasmom

You can’t get on HUD. You are a responsible, self reliant citizen. If you get on HUD, someone else will have to be responsible and self reliant for you.

I understand that some people need programs like that. I get it, I really do. I am not entirely without compassion. But right now I am extremely tired and grumpy, and have so many harsh words for the leeches that abuse the system and drain people like us.

6 posted on 02/18/2011 2:36:16 AM PST by HushTX (If the best defense is a good offense, it's a good thing I'm really offensive.)
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To: HushTX
I know I will never qualify for HUD, no matter my future circumstances.

I tried to convince a proud,physically disabled military veteran to apply for his hard earned “benefits” for a service related disability, and learned that he was considered less deserving of consideration for “government assistance”, than the garden variety crackhead mother of three, who can't officially name any of her “baby's daddys”.

Thank God, he has a sister who was willing and able to fight for him, and care for him. And after three long years of concentrated effort, he is now receiving the taxpayer funded care those of us who pay taxes thought we were paying for, over a decade after he was permanently disabled in the line of duty.

No, I will never “qualify” for HUD funds. I am a registered Republican. My role is to pay taxes, not to expect any benefit from them.

But I absolutely refuse to allow our government to push our wounded and disabled combat military veterans to the back of the line, this time.

7 posted on 02/18/2011 9:45:15 PM PST by sarasmom
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