Barack Obama will publicize the names and agenda items of the groups that are meeting with its transition team, the campaign announced on Friday. Moreover, the public will be allowed to review and discuss the information on Obama's website, Change.gov.
The move, announced by transition head John Podesta, is another tip of the hat towards a more transparent governing process. The campaign's Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, Michael Strautmanis, will do the posting, which will note not just the organizations that are meeting with the president-elect and his staff, but also the documents (policy "wish lists") they bring with them.
"Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the Transition and the Administration, both orally and in writing," reads a memo from Podesta to the Obama staff. "We want to ensure that we give the American people a 'seat at the table' and that we receive the benefit of their feedback."
Strautmanis discusses the move in the video below:
It is a bold move on Obama's part. Down the road, when his proposals are turned into actual policy, it will be easy to see which groups won out and which ones lost in the process. That transparency could lead to accusations of favoritism and quid-pro-quos as well as hurt feelings among certain industries that felt they were stepped over or ignored.
For good-government folks, meanwhile, this is potentially a very big deal. Obama is opening up his governing process to the public, which, for politicians, is hardly convenient. He is encouraging, in a way, a public competition between organizations to see who can produce the sharpest policy takes. And inevitably, he will be challenged to defend his work based on its merits, as observers will get an even keener sense of what kind of policy choices he had at hand.
These non-government groups, think tanks, unions and associations will likely welcome the new process, as it will provide them with greater public exposure than they enjoy simply by submitting a white paper to team Obama. And reporters -- searching for some copy in this transition period -- will welcome the move, as it provides policy-related material on which they can base stories.
The list will be made public moving forward on Obama's change.gov website.