Archive for the ‘unitary executive’ Category

Obama on Transparency and Scientific Integrity: Some Positive Signs with Some Mixed Signals

March 13, 2009

One kind of issue about presidential control over executive government with proven implications for “science-bending” concerns presidential control over executive branch communications with Congress. Transparency, and all the contributions to “honest brokering” and effective democracy through the “marketplace of ideas” that go with it, is impaired if the President takes the position that communications with Congress or the public must be pre-cleared politically. One notorious example during the Bush administration was the suppression of projections concerning the cost of certain health-care measures. Some such controls are of long-standing, however. Thirty-two years ago, when the author was General Counsel of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Management and Budget was “coordinating” (i.e., pre-clearing) communications and testimony to Congress about legislative proposals and budgetary matters. The Commission’s nominal independence (it was of course an element of the executive branch, but its statutes provided explicitly for direct communication) softened these controls; but within the Commission itself, its Bureau “executives” sometimes exercised rather rigorous control over what they would permit their staff members to tell the Commission about perceived nuclear power risks – a rather unfortunate situation. (more…)