From Politico --
The Associated Press has moved a story saying that health care lobbyists and other interests have made 575 visits to the White House between January and August. The report is based on records released by the White House on Wednesday.
The timing of the release smells of a classic Washington tactic -- dumping bad news on the getaway day before a long weekend. Clearly, the White House, which prides itself as being the most transparent administration in the history of the world, hopes this nugget gets lost over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend.
AP's Sharon Theimer:
Top aides to President Barack Obama have met early and often with lobbyists, Democratic political strategists and other interests with a stake in the administration's national health care overhaul, White House visitor records obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press show.
The AP in early August asked the White House to produce records identifying communications that top Obama aides — including chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior advisers David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse, and 18 others — had with outside interests on health care. The AP in late September narrowed its request to White House visitor records for those officials on health care.
The White House on Wednesday provided AP with 575 visitor records covering the period from Jan. 20, when Obama was inaugurated, through August. The records give the name of each visitor to the White House complex to see people on AP's list, the date of the visit, who they were supposed to see, how many people attended the gathering, and in a sampling of cases, the purpose of the visit. The records do not identify the visitors' employers, say on whose behalf they were there or give any specifics on what was discussed.
The records show a broad cross-section of the people most heavily involved in the health care debate, weighted heavily with those who want to overhaul the system. Among them were Dr. Eliot Fisher, a Dartmouth health researcher who has estimated that nearly one-third of health care dollars are wasted on unneeded services, and Dr. David Himmelstein of Harvard Medical School, who is among the top advocates of a single-payer health care system.
The list also includes George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Health Plans; Scott Serota, president and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association; Kenneth Kies, a Washington lobbyist who represents Blue Cross/Blue Shield, among other clients; Billy Tauzin, head of PhRMA, the drug industry lobby; and Richard Umbdenstock, chief of the American Hospital Association.
Several lobbyists for powerful health care interests, including insurers, drug companies and large employers, also visited the White House complex, the records show:
*Update: The White House pushed back hard against this item. White House spokesman Reid Cherlin argued that the headline was inaccurate because the 575 visits were not all special interests, but included Hill staff, academics and others. And Cherlin and spokesman Ben LaBolt both said that the data release was moved up from Friday to today to accommodate the press, not to dump it before a long holiday weekend.