Wednesday, 31 January 2007

More Bush Power = More Transparency?

Not bloody likely!

In yet another attempt to grab lost power, our secretive Administration announced two weeks ago that it will expand the review power of the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to include all guidance documents released within all Federal Agencies. Incredibly OMB spokeswoman Andrea Wuebker claims that the change will increase "the quality ... and transparency of agency guidance documents."

OK, this may not seem like a big deal, and it is not even close to the most outrageous thing this Administration has done, but it is illustrative of their consistent underlying desire to always control the message and make sure that decent public servants within the federal government cannot undermine Bush's political aims by doing their jobs responsibly. Now there is nothing wrong with OIRA taking the time to review the work going on within various agencies, and challenging documents they may feel are politically motivated or inaccurate. But the effect of this rule change is to create more hoops for agencies to go through before releasing guidance documents of any kind, making sure that each is first vetted by officials whose primary concern is political.

Already, the Bush Administration has taken huge advantage of Clinton's original executive order which prompted oversight review of all proposed regulations, to make sure that they were all "properly" vetted by the legions within Bush's executive branch who look after the interests of his pals in the boardroom. As OMB Watch noted last year, "the role of OIRA in rulemaking is often far more pervasive and substantive than the executive order circumscribes." We also already know that when science uncovers inconvenient facts, political appointees have free rein to reword scientific papers to suit political expediency. Now that WAS outrageous!

Don't you know Bush just hates it when such stories break? Well they figure maybe fewer inconvenient findings will ever make it to public eyes if every guidance document requires more paperwork and vetting before even being released. Transparency indeed! The intention here is just the opposite.

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