White House transparency makes the lobbyist’s job easier

Published 12:51 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

The two editorials that appeared in last Thursday’s edition of the Niles Daily Star regarding White House visitors and transparency were intriguing to me because, as a former federal registered lobbyist, I was a frequent White House visitor myself, and can speak from experience.

From 1997 until 2009, I worked for the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. Because I was vice president in charge of NCPA’s Washington office, I was a frequent visitor to the White House due to the close relationship NCPA had with George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas.

This close relationship carried over to the Bush White House, and I benefitted from this easy access.

Keep in mind that most of my visits to the White House were meeting requests from senior White House staff to discuss domestic policy issues that NCPA had researched. Only three times in eight years did I meet with President Bush, always in the Roosevelt Room and not in the Oval Office.

Few people in Washington knew what I was doing at these White House visits because there was little transparency at that time. I also had business appointments in the West Wing during the Reagan, Bush 41 and the Clinton administrations, and those visits were also the result of invitations to come to the West Wing for policy discussions.

There was no public record or visitors log to check who had been up to what.

Had there been open visitor logs prior to 2009, I am certain that I would have been assigned an NCPA intern to pore over the logs to determine what other lobbyists had been working the West Wing offices of White House senior staff.

The two Daily Star editorials focused on visits to the Oval Office and meetings with President Trump and the need for transparency so that the public would know who the president was meeting with. Most of those meetings are published in the daily White House presidential schedule anyway, so there is already some Oval Office transparency.

It would be naive of the mainstream media to suggest that no other West Wing meetings are of interest to the public, as the editorials implied.

The real deal making and arm twisting occurs in the other West Wing offices, and not in the Oval Office. If there is to be transparency, it needs to cover all visitors to all West Wing offices.

A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington DC since 1976. Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and vice president of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of Health Savings Accounts.