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Why won't the White House answer the question?

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32 days ago, President Obama was asked a question. It was simple and direct. Jonathan Karl of ABC News asked how much does a round of golf for President Obama cost? White House Press Secretary Jay Carney balked at the question. That's when we picked up the issue.

After a search of public records, we sent the following question to the GAO on March 20th

"To whom it may concern,

I am a member of the press, writing for the Examiner.com and M V Consulting, Inc. I am looking for details of the cost, per round of golf and/or in total, for President Obama to play golf since January 1, 2009. In addition, I would also request the same figures for President G.W. Bush golf outings from Jan 1, 2001 to December 31, 2008. These figures are for research and articles that are on-going at this time.

These records should include - where possible - cost of Secret Service, staff, other security, any remunerations to golf courses and staff, cost of special guests, fuel costs to transport the President and entourage, and/or any other special services attached to that event.

If the GAO does not have these records and another Department or Agency does have this information, we ask for the contact information to whomever we should be speaking with. If there is specific legislation that prevents disclosure of part and/or the total of the records we have requested, we ask for the specific title of that legislation.

I thank you for your efforts in this matter.

Sincerely

Michael Vass"

By March 21st Karen Holliday, Disclosure Information Specialist of GAO/Audit Policy and Quality Assurance confirmed that they had received our FOIA request. On March 26th, Ms. Holliday notified us that the GAO did not have the information we had requested and directed us to the OMB - specifically FOIA Officer Dionne Hardy.

That same day, we sent a duplicate letter to the OMB, requesting the exact same information. On March 27th, Ms. Hardy responded with an acknowledgement of our FOIA request - reference OMB FOIA number 13-104.

As of this article, there has yet to be a response. We have not been told that the information is restricted. We have not been directed to another department of the Government. We have been left wanting.

For more than a month, the Obama Administration remains incapable of answering a simple question - which only needs to be looked up as the answer exists in an accounting book somewhere in the Government.

This leads to either one of 2 answers:

  1. The Obama Administration is inept, and cannot find the information to disclose.
  2. The Obama Administration is unwilling to provide this information.

Either is a disturbing conclusion. Let's address the first conclusion.

If the Obama Administration is inept, the worst fears of detractors have been realized. Worse is the fact that the OMB is also culpable in this inefficiency. While it would explain the haphazard manner in which the Government has enacted the Sequester cuts, it invariably means that the nation is in dire fiscal straits. A government that cannot deduce the simplest of accounting matters is a government that cannot resolve any economic issue. The problem in fact would not just be that of the current Administration, but systemic.

Such a scenario lends itself to the reason why decades of inaction have presided over resolving the national debt. It further supports why current attempts to address the debt are merely attempts to slow down the increases in spending, not an actual reduction or repayment of the debt.

The consequences of this scenario are far too dark for us to consider, and we reject that wholesale. For all the political double talk and accounting nightmares, the US economy is watched far too closely by an enormous number of organizations, countries, and individuals to be so akin to Enron.

Scenario 2 leaves us with a scandal. What is the OMB hiding? What does the White House not want revealed? Why? How much is President Obama spending in taxpayer dollars on golf outings?

The lack of transparency, from an Administration that swore to voters in 2008 it would be the most transparent ever, almost demands a conspiracy theory to fill the void of actual information.

Is the Obama Administration afraid of the backlash from ending tours of the White House? Are they trying to preserve political capital and avoid an onslaught of criticism from fiscal Conservatives and blue dog Democrats alike? Is this an attempt to preserve the approval rating of the President as he tries to enact legislation on immigration, gun restriction, and cyber terrorism almost simultaneously? Are they simply waiting for the entire issue to die and pass from the minds of the public before a single document is issued? If the Government is stonewalling a response on a simple matter like this, what else is the Government unwilling to disclose - especially from the "most" transparent Presidency "ever"?

There are a lot more questions that can be asked. All of them are valid and potentially accurate in the absence of any response. Which makes a response all the more necessary, and will keep this issue alive - at least with us.

Our Government should always be accountable to the public. When it is not, no matter how well loved by the media, that Administration must be asked, demanded if necessary, to explain itself. We think that a former Senator from Illinois agreed with that belief at one time. Unlike that former Senator, apparently, we still do.

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