The Washington Post has an excellent look at visits by lobbyists to senior officials in the Obama administration, based on White House visitor records. An excerpt:
More than any president before him, Obama pledged to change the political culture that has fueled the influence of lobbyists. He barred recent lobbyists from joining his administration and banned them from advisory boards throughout the executive branch. The president went so far as to forbid what had been staples of political interaction — federal employees could no longer accept free admission to receptions and conferences sponsored by lobbying groups."A lot of folks," Obama said last month, "see the amounts of money that are being spent and the special interests that dominate and the lobbyists that always have access, and they say to themselves, maybe I don’t count."The White House visitor records make it clear that Obama’s senior officials are granting that access to some of K Street’s most influential representatives. In many cases, those lobbyists have long-standing connections to the president or his aides. Republican lobbyists coming to visit are rare, while Democratic lobbyists are common, whether they are representing corporate clients or liberal causes.
Is lobbying greater under Obama than under his predecessors? It's impossible to know, because President Obama is the first president to release records of White House visitors. Score one for transparency, and score one for the lobbyists, too.
You may recall that msnbc.com covered the issue of White House visitor logs, pressing repeatedly for the White House to release all the records. That still hasn't happened. Records of visitors for the first eight months of the Obama presidency have not been released.
The Obama administration released records to settle a lawsuit, and another lawsuit is pending to try to force the White House to release all the records. The president's attorneys continue to make the claim, as previous administrations had made, that the records are not covered under the Freedom of Information Act, despite two federal court decisions calling for all the records to be released. So the disclosures made so far are, in the White House view, voluntary. Presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney has not said whether he will release White House visitor logs.
Stories in our msnbc.com series on the White House visitor logs: