Taking a page out of the legal tussle over the Clinton healthcare task force 16 years ago, a public-interest group has sued the White House, claiming that it broke an open-meetings law when aides working in secret cobbled together the healthcare reform package that was the basis of recent congressional action.
Freedom Watch, a group started by legal advocate Larry Klayman, this week filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming that the White House violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires open meetings, and the Freedom of Information Act for refusing to hand over key E-mails and other documents related to administration huddles with drug groups and Planned Parenthood.
The suit comes just days after Klayman, who also founded Judicial Watch, delivered a written demand for information about meetings with medical groups and correspondence concerning any meetings. While he has no evidence of wrongdoing, Klayman, citing the 1993 case against Clinton, wrote: "Recent history has unfortunately seen several ethical lapses and outright illegalities concerning conflicts of interest in the White House and violations of the FACA." The White House had no immediate comment.
The initial letter and suit are posted on the website of publisher New Chapter, which also just published Klayman's new autobiography, Whores.
In 1994, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons sued the Clinton administration, which had conducted several closed-door meetings to draw up its healthcare reform package. The case made headlines about secrecy and was one of the reasons that reform effort failed. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has largely left the drafting of legislation up to Congress. But Klayman claims that the administration did meet with several groups "behind closed doors" and in violation of FACA. The suit demands that Klayman be allowed to attend any future meetings on healthcare reform and that access to documents used by the administration in addressing healthcare reform be turned over.