Five weeks into his administration, the Biden White House has yet to make good on its commitment to release visitor logs, according to a report.
Daily schedules for the President and Vice President Kamala Harris are also not posted online, the White House comment line is shut down and the White House’s website doesn’t list citizen petitions, the report published Monday by Politico adds.
The administration has said it intends to make the visitor logs public, but it will not reveal the names of people attending virtual meetings – a key mode of communication during the COVID pandemic.
The White House wouldn’t comment on certain policies like the citizens’ petition but reiterated Biden’s pledge for “ethics and transparency” in a statement to Politico.
“President Biden committed during the campaign to restoring ethics and transparency to government, and in his first weeks in office he’s taken significant steps to deliver on that, including by reinstating the daily press briefing, putting in place sweeping ethics guidelines for the administration, and pledging to regularly release visitor logs again,” spokesperson Mike Gwin told the outlet.
Good government groups are urging the administration to act on its vow of openness.
“The steps they’ve taken are welcome, but insufficient to the moment and the need,” Alex Howard, an open government advocate who directs the left-leaning Digital Democracy Project at the Demand Progress Educational Fund, told Politico.
“They need to keep ‘showing their work’ by opening Cabinet meetings, disclosing information and using political capital to emphasize that being ‘open by default’ isn’t just an option but an obligation across the government.”
Some groups have sent letters to the White House seeking policy changes, and the Brookings Institution petitioned for more transparency in a 70-page ethics report.
“We have now learned the system was too weak,” Walter Shaub, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, told Politico. “And we’ve been through four years of having to battle tooth and nail to get any documents and we need [Biden] to set up new systems so the next administration will follow them.”
Norm Eisen, a fellow at Brookings and Obama’s “ethics czar,” said he understands the limitations of releasing all online meetings but the administration should make an effort.
“For the COVID era when so much is being done remotely, there should be an accommodation for that,” Eisen said.