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GOP "Transparency" Means an Open Meeting with Lobbyists Who Will Shape the Party's Agenda

Just this morning, we talked about next week's "America Speaking Out" meeting between House GOP leaders and lobbyists. The stated purpose is for Republicans to get ideas for the party's policy agenda directly from lobbyists representing massive trade groups, including the GOP-friendly National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which really loves Republicans). While the meeting itself seems problematic -- do GOP leaders have to huddle with lobbyists for every decision? -- the other issue to come up was about transparency. Why should next week's discussion be held behind closed doors? Why not let the public take a peek behind the curtain? Well, whaddaya know.
Republicans plan to livestream a meeting with trade group lobbyists next week after Democrats criticized the previously closed-door discussions. House GOP leaders had planned to meet with business representatives as part of their "America Speaking Out" campaign, an ongoing effort to develop a platform for the 2010 elections.
That's certainly the right call. Had GOP leaders gone ahead with the meeting, and insisted on shielding it from view, it would have reinforced Democratic talking points. Ideally, Republicans wouldn't be shaping their currently-non-existent policy agenda based on lobbyists' suggestions, but if they are, it's preferable to at least be up front about it. GOP leaders don't often respond to criticism like this quickly, but perhaps this was an instance in which they just couldn't explain the need for secrecy. As a practical matter, of course, the result is likely to be largely theatrical. The reason the "secret deals" and "behind closed doors" talking points from the health care debate became so tiresome is that meaningful discussions always occur in private. People are more comfortable being candid and constructive when they know they're not being recorded. As Greg Sargent noted today, just because next week's lobbyist meeting will be live-streamed, "doesn't preclude other private discussions between lawmakers and lobbyists from taking place, and the lobbyists will be a tad more guarded than they otherwise might be." Right. I'm glad the meeting will be streamed, and I give the GOP credit for responding to criticism, but I don't actually expect John Boehner and the USCOC's Bruce Josten to slip and say something controversial next week. That'll come after the cameras are turned off. Still, we'll get to hear exactly what the trade groups' lobbyists want to present in terms of economic ideas, and just how anxious the Republican leadership is to give them what they want. It should be fairly interesting
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