The Obama administration on Tuesday published its Third Open Government National Action Plan to increase transparency and provide citizens with “unprecedented access” to government information. While this plan contains laudable sections to improve access to information through the Freedom of Information Act and to increase federal spending transparency, it neglects to identify and address two fundamental issues clouding this administration’s record on transparency.

This administration has demanded government agencies seek counsel from the White House on any matter that could be considered a “White House equity.” This policy threatens both the improvement of FOIA request transparency, and the public’s First Amendment rights.

The definition of “White House equities” is nebulous at best; most agencies are unsure exactly what the term means, although some have understood it to be anything of possible interest to the White House. This vague definition has caused confusion — and therefore delays — from many government agencies in processing FOIA requests, leaving the public waiting on information. Additionally, adding the White House onto the review process not only increases delays, but it actually provides the White House Counsel’s Office with documents it would not ordinarily have access to under FOIA.

White House equities are in clear conflict with government transparency, and should have been addressed in the National Action Plan.

In addition, the administration’s plan fails to address Executive Branch Earmarks.

In 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order 13457, aimed at ensuring that funds provided by Congress are transparent and merit-based, with all information made publicly available on the internet. However, the Executive Branch is currently ignoring Executive Order 13457 and still handing out its own earmarks behind closed doors.

Taxpayer dollars continue to be wasted in the absence of government transparency. A Cause of Action examination of federal discretionary spending through FOIA records and federal databases has revealed that efforts to ensure that discretionary grant decision-making is transparent and merit-based are ineffective. As a result, political appointees and others continue to use federal monies to reward political allies and appease powerful interests.

While the administration may have a plan to make government more transparent, there is a great deal that it has neglected. If the administration really wants to increase transparency, then it must address White House equities and Executive Branch Earmarks.