Opinion: Columnists

Sunday Reflection: Obama breaks the law, hides his regulatory plan

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The "most transparent administration ever" has found yet one more way to be the least transparent ever (and I'm hardly the only one saying so). This particular gambit breaks the law, and in a way no predecessor has ever done before.

The mystery of the second-term agenda has become a growing campaign issue for President Obama. As candidate, he apparently wants to hide his plans from you. But he is also the president, and therefore obligated to tell you.

Obama is even being shy about divulging his plans to sympathetic types. However, two left-wing writers have cited administration sources indicating only that a second term will center around the "climate" agenda. In plain English, that is industrial policy focused on energy scarcity, "necessarily skyrocketing" electricity costs, gasoline prices at the "levels in Europe," and "bankrupt[ing]" politically inconvenient industries.

That's the same agenda that has left 800,000 unable to heat their homes in Germany, Obama's sole remaining European model (now that he doesn't mention Spain anymore). "Energy poverty is sweeping over modern Germany like never before," in what Der Spiegel cites activists calling a politician-induced "glaring violation of basic social rights."

Last week, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., released a report detailing "Numerous Obama EPA Rules Placed on Hold until after the Election Spell Doom for Jobs and Economic Growth." Which brings us to the latest bout of lawbreaking by an increasingly lawless administration. It turns out that the law (5 U.S.C. ¤ 602) requires ("shall publish") every president to publish the regulatory calendar every six months. Each agency produces one and sends it to the White House, which then sends back instructions. Then, in unison, all agencies and the White House budget office publish the plans in the Federal Register and on their websites in April and October.

This reveals what the president's regulators are doing, what they've stopped doing, new things they are working on, things they've delayed and the new schedule.

But in this election year, the president has made no effort to let us in on what he would do if re-elected. Obama is not complying with the law. This represents the first such presidential refusal to publish.

The last time Obama felt the law applied to him was when he allowed publication of the fall 2011 regulatory agenda. The Environmental Protection Agency and the rest of these regulators-gone-wild owed the public a regulatory agenda in April. They broke the law and didn't bother. The White House is really into economically harmful regulations, but just not that into telling you its second-term plans. Administration officials already told the Washington Post that they had shelved a whole host of regs -- for now -- a list that Inhofe demonstrated has grown substantially.

This month, the administration again owes the public an admission of what it has in store for us. There are no indications it plans to change this. Until after the election. With the campaign under way, the missing agenda has become one of the greatest mysteries in town, aside from who knew what and when about the Benghazi, Libya, attack.

What in the world could they be hiding, so afraid of letting you know about, to have to break the law? What happened to transparency? As leader of the self-described most transparent administration ever, Obama shouldn't even need a law to make him do this.

President Obama has often seemed to be more interested in running for office than in doing his job. As candidate, he is getting away with hiding his regulatory agenda for the economy should he be re-elected. As president, he is not allowed to do so.

Christopher C. Horner is a D.C. attorney and author of the new book "The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information 'Criminal' " (Threshold Editions, Oct. 2).

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