December 19, 2007
White House Told to Make Guest Log Public
Visits of nine of conservative Christian organization leaders to the Bush White House under scrutiny.
As the smoke clears from the Vice Presidential ceremonial office, Dick Cheney is getting more (indirect) attention because of a ruling that says Secret Service records of White House visits from nine conservative Christian leaders should be released.
While the issue in the ruling was really about whether the Secret Service's visitor records are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (and the court ruled that the requested records are), Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)'s objective is to look into "the influence that conservative Christian leaders have, or attempt to have, on the President [of the United States]."
"The White House doesn't want to talk about how much influence these leaders have, and we want to talk about how much they do have," CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said.
CREW wants to see records of visits by nine leaders of particularly activist (lobbyist) organizations:
- James Dobson of Focus on the Family. CREW was one of the organizations that instigated a 2006-2007 IRS audit of the organization for electioneering as a nonprofit.
- Gary L. Bauer, former president of Family Research Council who ran for President in 2000. He is currently president of American Values and on the board of Campaign for Working Families.
- Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America.
- Traditional Values Coalition executive director Andrea Lafferty and founder Louis Sheldon, Lafferty's father.
- Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, and Council for National Policy, currently Free Congress Foundation.
- Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council
- Donald Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Association
- The late Jerry Falwell, co-founder of Moral Majority
Reuters reported that
U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth rejected as "misguided" the Secret Service's arguments that disclosing the records would reveal confidential policy deliberations.
Their disclosure would then be open to challenge only on a case-by-case basis, for reasons such as state secrecy or attorney-client privilege.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the agency was reviewing the ruling but had not decided whether to appeal.
But for the particular records of the nine people's visits to the White House, the ruling may not amount to evidence for CREW at all. Sean Sirrine, who blogs at Objective-Justice, writes, "Why is everyone so excited?"
The court is holding that these records can be obtained through the FOIA, but that if the records have already been given to the White House or destroyed there is nothing the court can do about it under this action exept [sic] order the Archivist of the United States to take enforcement action to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from unlawfully destroying agency records in the future.
Yes, the Secret Service might hae [sic] to release the records they have on the "nine conservative religious figures" mentioned in case, but if they no longer have any of those records, too bad.