Change.gov – “Office of the President-Elect”??
While we still plan on continuing to apply pressure on Obama to release his complete donor records, something else caught our eye today – the new Obama transition web site www.change.gov for the “Office of the President-Elect”. We also came across this picture of Obama giving a speech behind a lectern with a plaque labeled “The Office of the President Elect” accompanied by an official looking seal.
Only one problem – there is no such thing as the governmental “Office of the President Elect” and constitutionally, Obama only becomes the President elect once the electoral college has voted.
As it turns out, the “Office of the President Elect” is the invention of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, a 501c(4) organization. This private organization is overseen by three co-chairs selected by Obama, and is staffed by non-government employees. So, if this is a private organization, how did it get the .gov domain name? That’s a great question.
The GSA oversees the .gov domain and is pretty specific about who can get these domains:
Registrations that qualify for a .gov domain
- U.S. Governmental departments, programs, and agencies on the federal level
- Federally recognized Indian Tribes (-NSN.gov domain)
- State governmental entities/programs
- Cities and townships represented by an elected body of officials
- Counties and parishes represented by an elected body of officials
- U.S. territories
It’s clear that based on these requirements, there is simply no reason that the private Obama-Biden Transition Project should have been issued this domain name – but that’s not the most concerning part.
The Obama-Biden Transition Project is an extension of the Obama campaign, and there are several problems with their .gov website:
- It features a fictitious government agency name and seal
- It features campaign material including attacks on the McCain plan
- The site collects email addresses under the guise of official government business
- The site itself is hosted by Blue State Digital, the very firm that is responsible for providing his suspect online fundraising tools and methods!
Several questions now emerge:
- How did the Obama-Biden Transition Project get the .gov domain name if it is not a government agency?
- Why does the Obama campaign use what appears to be a fictitious title of office and corresponding seal (which actually appears to be based on the Great Seal of the United States)?
- Where do the email addresses collected on the change.gov site go and for what purpose are they collected?
UPDATE: Keith Thurston from the GSA, the agency responsible for supporting the Presidential Transition, was kind enough to respond to our inquiries with the following email:
This is in response to your question concerning www.Change.Gov submitted to the Gov Domain registrar. The Office of the President-elect is specifically recognized by federal law, specifically – The Presidential Transition Act of 1963, as amended (3 USC 102 note). It is a unique entity that is entitled to government support while still retaining characteristics of a private organization. Section 3 of the Presidential Transition Act authorizes the General Services Administration to provide services and support to the Office of the President-elect beginning the day after the election until 30 days after the inauguration. Based on the federally recognized status of the Office of the President-elect, and GSA’s responsibility to support the Office, we have determined that it is appropriate for them to use a .gov domain. This is the same conclusion that we reached in the presidential transition of 2000-2001.
Below is a listing of other functions that we perform for president-elects as they enter office. We also support the departing president with certain functions after they leave office.
According to Keith, the domain name was issued in accordance with the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. Only one problem, nowhere in the 1963 Act (as amended) does it mention the “Office of the President Elect”. The code does mention that the GSA provide “Communications services found necessary by the President-elect or Vice President-elect”, but it says nothing about establishing an “Office of the President Elect” nor does it mention providing a .gov domain name for services that are hosted by a private company, for use on a site that contains campaign materials.
The problems here are significant, yet they are generally being ignored by the media. The usage of the title, the seal and the .gov domain name confers a sense of legitimacy and accountability to a private organization that is, sadly, not required to follow the same disclosure rules that a legitimate government entity is required to follow.
For this article, we researched the following documents and found no reference to the “Office of the President Elect”:
- The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (3 U.S.C. 102)
- The Presidential Transition Act of 2000
- George W. Bush Executive Order: Facilitation of A Presidential Transition
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