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An Open House Tour

February 06, 2009


The 2008 Presidential Campaign was an exciting and historically significant race of special interest to legal and political researchers. The importance of the issues and the biographies of the candidates ensured this race a place in history. However, this election cycle also marked the advent of new ways to involve the average citizen in the campaign process. Web 2.0 technolgies were applied to politics through the use of sophisticated, interactive websites and social networking tools. Interested observers were given unprecedented access to information. 

The election may be over, but your access to the issues doesn’t have to end with Inauguration Day. The Obama administration has committed itself to transparent government, which is a boon for legal reseachers. A great place to begin exploring the Executive Branch is the the official website of the White House. This site offers many useful resources to the legal researcher, including videos, audio clips, blogs, position statements, and the text of important Executive actions.

The home page highlights recent important events with video clips and links. Notice that in the upper right hand corner, you have the option to sign up for email updates. The main page also offers you a basic keyword search feature. Scrolling down to the bottom of the page allows you the option of viewing the page in Spanish or reading copyright and privacy policies.

The Briefing Room portion of the site features a frequently updated blog that reports on the activities of the President and Vice President.The Briefing Room also holds the text of all Executive OrdersPresidential Proclamations, and the the names and positions of all Presidential Appointments and Nominations.

Another useful feature of the site is the Agenda page. This portion of the site explains the Obama administration’s position on a number of important issues, such as the economy, Iraq, and the environment.

The White House site also quickly links you to important government officials through the Administration page. Short biographies and appropriate website addresses are available for the President, First Lady, Vice President, the Cabinet, White House Staff, and Executive Office staff. Information on the branches of government and federal agencies and commissions is available through the section of the site entitled “Our Government”.

It is important to note that the White House site only contains information on the current administration. To access documents from past administrations, use GPOAccess, as explained in the Nov. 25th Biddleblog post.

In the case of the Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft (303 F.3d 631), Judge Damon J. Keith stated “Democracies die behind closed doors.” The Obama administration has pledged itself to transparent government. A good way to monitor this committment is through the White House website.

Are the doors of our government truly open? Visit the White House site and form your own judgment on the Obama administration’s “Open House” policy.