In response to several requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the White House late Friday released a partial list of visitors during roughly the first six-months of Obama’s administration. You can view the entire list at Whitehouse.gov. The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC are both reporting on the politics and law behind the requests, while most media outlets are just focusing on the celebrities. According to MSNBC, the White House rejected their request that all the names of visitors be released. “Like the Bush administration before it, Obama is arguing that any release is voluntary, not required by law, despite two federal court rulings to the contrary.” I don’t know the law on this point, so I won’t argue who’s right one way or the other. Not surprisingly, the administration is spinning it that they’re providing “transparency like you’ve never seen before.”
So why is this important at all to the world of beer? Given that one of the neo-prohibitionist movements most persistent claims is that the beer lobby has undue influence over politics in Washington, one name fairly jumped off the page of the Wall Street Journal report, a name which is confirmed by the official White House list. From January 20 to July 31, the president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, visited the White House seven times (that’s over once a month) and met personally with President Obama twice. The Journal disingenuously characterizes Lavizzo-Mourey as “a thinker in health policy,” when his organization’s true aims have been revealed as something very different. See, for example, the Center For Consumer Freedom’s report Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign, which details the true agenda of the RWJF. But perhaps more troubling, is their and other neo-prohibitionist’s persistent claims that the beer lobby has bought favorable treatment disproportionate to other industries. For a recent example, the Marin Institute’s facetious report entitled Big Beer Duopoly made this claim less than two weeks ago.
But let’s look at the facts, at least with regard to the White House. For all their lobbyist spending, not one beer industry representative visited the White House over a six-month period, while during the same time the most pernicious neo-prohibitionist group, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, had monthly visits to the White House, including two meetings with POTUS. Of course, it’s possible that beer lobbyists did visit the White House and their names are among those not released by the Obama administration. But since most of the list does include other business leaders and given the White House’s current anti-lobbyist policy, that seems less likely. And let’s not forget that President Obama appointed the former head of MADD, Charles Hurley, to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The obvious conclusion is that what this reveals is the propaganda behind the neo-prohibitionst claims regarding the beer lobby. As is typical, once again they’ve been shown to not be truthful. While claiming undue political influence on the part of the beer industry, the truth is that neo-prohibitionists have the ear of the President. Considering today is Halloween, that may be the scariest news of all.