An article from the New York Times last week detailed the widespread use of the Caribou Coffee on Pennsylvania Avenue as a meeting place between White House officials and lobbyists. Now, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for an investigation.
The New York Times reported that because "the discussions are not taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they are not subject to disclosure on the visitors’ log that the White House releases as part of its pledge to be the ‘most transparent presidential administration in history.’ The off-site meetings, lobbyists say, reveal a disconnect between the Obama administration’s public rhetoric — with Mr. Obama himself frequently thrashing big industries’ ‘battalions’ of lobbyists as enemies of reform — and the administration’s continuing, private dealings with them."
CREW is seeking to find out whether the White House staff violated the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and Federal Records Act (FRA) by using private email to correspond with lobbyists and by holding meetings with lobbyists outside of the White House. Read CREW’s press release here.
Staff of the Sunlight Foundation went to Caribou Coffee to find any lobbyists that might have been planning to meet with White House staff. There is a video documenting their test. They were unsuccessful, but a blog from Sunlight asserts; "It shouldn’t matter whether or not a meeting between White House officials and lobbyists happens at the White House or at Caribou Coffee. Releasing visitor logs is a step in the right direction, but it’s not sufficient."