President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered a pay freeze for top aides making $100,000 or more and signed a series of executive orders aimed at creating the open government he repeatedly promised on the campaign trail.
Obama said the moves were aimed at helping to “restore that faith in government without which we cannot deliver the changes we were sent here to make,” drawing a barely veiled contrast between himself and a predecessor whose administration was criticized for secrecy and abuses of the law.
In orders he signed Wednesday afternoon in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Obama announced that no lobbyist will be able to take a job in an area where they lobbied. He banned gifts from lobbyists to administration officials. And he said he’d require all those who serve him to commit in writing to refrain from influencing colleagues for two years.
Obama said such moves represent “a clean break from business as usual.”
In a nod toward the difficult economic times many in the country are facing, Obama said his senior White House staff would be subject to a pay freeze. Aides said the cap would be at $100,000.
The new president also said Freedom of Information act requests would be more routinely approved by his administration.
“The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean that you should always use it,” Obama said, hinting at the efforts by former Vice President Dick Cheney to keep information about White House meetings concealed.
Before deciding to bar information from public view, Obama said he would consult with his Attorney General and White House counsel – a move aimed at curbing the Bush administration’s penchant for making information classified. President George W. Bush argued that as president, he had the right to classify – or declassify – information as he saw fit.