By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Just like Wisconsin’s liberal governor, President Joe Biden is taking heat for shutting the open government door.
U.S. Rep. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) and 20 of his Senate Republican colleagues are calling on Biden to reverse his executive order revoking the requirement that federal agencies post guidance documents in a searchable database.
The Biden administration hiding has begun.
“Since February, a number of federal agencies have taken steps to eliminate public access to guidance documents in order to comply with your directive. We believe these actions run counter to the principles of an open, transparent government and the rule of law,” the senators’ letter states.
You’ll remember President Obama governed by fiat — and guidance documents. His vice president is bringing all of that back. These many and varied bureaucratic notices, decrees, memos and directives often come with the force of law. Illegally. As Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. recently wrote in Forbes, guidance documents make up the “regulatory dark matter that can have regulatory effect despite that being against the rules.”
Some Obama era examples:
* The Department of Justice/Education Department “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students
* Waivers of statutory mandates contained within Obamacare itself via the administration’s unilateral extension of the employer mandate deadline, and the continuation of non-compliant health insurance policies
Guidance documents slip in without the benefit of public comment or the usual public engagement process. Liberals love them.
Biden’s revocation follows the Democrat’s fixation on purging all things Trump, particularly the former president’s checks on the ever-creeping Deep State. Trump’s transparency order was modeled after bipartisan legislation, the Guidance Out of Darkness Act (GOOD Act) that was approved on a voice vote by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs each of the last two sessions of Congress. Johnson previously chaired the committee.
“In the past, efforts to promote a more open and transparent government have been bipartisan, and we see no reason why they should not be today,” the senators’ letter to Biden states.
Crews, in his blog at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, notes 10 federal agencies have issued rules revoking Trump-era guidance-prep procedures. The Environmental Protection Agency this week became the 10th. EPA insists such transparency would deprive the regulator of “necessary flexibility.” In other words, EPA doesn’t want to be bothered by light on its dark, heavy-handed activities.
Like Washington, D.C., like Madison. Biden’s Dem pal, Gov. Tony Evers has assembled a pitiful record on open government. Early on in his tenure, Evers ditched a public website created by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, that tracked compliance on public records requests.
“In a short time, the Evers administration has done great damage to Wisconsin’s proud tradition of open government and transparency,” the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, stated in a 2019 study showing Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes failed to follow previous open government executive orders.