Econ board has yet to meet publicly

From Politico. Hat-tip to Bob F.

By JOSH GERSTEIN | 3/23/09 4:21 AM EDT Updated: 3/23/09 2:04 PM EDT

Six weeks after President Barack Obama appointed a blue-ribbon panel to help him dig America out of its economic crisis, the board has yet to hold an official public meeting.

The White House initially said that the 16-member Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, would meet “every few weeks.” Last month, a spokesperson told POLITICO the group would meet monthly. More recently, the White House said the high-powered board, set up to address what Obama has called the worst economic emergency since the Great Depression, would gather only about four times a year, with the next session due in “late spring.”

But comments from board members and Obama himself indicate that some members of the panel are meeting, in smaller gatherings that have not been announced or opened to the public. And that raises the question of whether an administration that prides itself on openness and transparency is in fact finding it more convenient to conduct public business in private.

Now, the administration finds itself in a Catch-22: It does not want to say that the president’s economic panel, announced amid much fanfare, is not meeting during the worst economic crisis in generations. But if it is meeting, where’s the announcement, the agenda, the minutes? In short, where’s the sunshine?

“If the president wants to talk to his advisory committee, it seems to me he ought to do that in the open,” said Sidney Shapiro, a law professor at Wake Forest University. “There ought to be accountability for private people who address the government. It seems to me it becomes even more important, not less important, when you have a presidential advisory committee.”

Asked about Obama’s right to solicit candid suggestions, Shapiro said, “If he wants private advice, he should pick up the telephone. He can call anybody he wants. If he wants to form a presidential advisory committee, they ought to meet in public.”

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