By Jordan Fabian –
Conservative attorney Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit against the White House Monday demanding that it release information on healthcare meetings with lobbyists.
The lawsuit, filed in federal district court, charges the Obama administration violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Freedom of Information Act by not providing relevant information about closed-door meetings on healthcare policy.
Klayman’s suit refers to reports of meetings between administration officials on the “Health Reform De Facto Advisory Committee” and lobbyists representing the pharmaceutical industry, Planned Parenthood, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AARP and others.
Klayman said the advisory committee has been tasked to design a policy that “is intended, at its endpoint, to socialize the American health care system.”
The suit demands that the White House release the minutes and final results of the meetings as well as the names and addresses of all people involved.
Should the White House not comply, “Public confidence in the integrity of the presidency and the executive branch as a whole has been and will be harmed” because of the “appearance that the president and the Obama administration as a whole are under the influence of” those groups listed in the suit, Klayman wrote in the criminal complaint.
The White House has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The lawsuit was filed just hours after the Senate vote to advance its version of healthcare reform legislation.
The administration’s meetings with various interest groups have raised questions among conservatives and liberals regarding their influence on the outcome of the legislation.
Most recently, some observers questioned if the White House’s agreement with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America on prescription drug costs helped sour senators on an amendment to the Senate bill allowing the “reimportation” of cheaper prescription drugs into the U.S. The amendment failed to pass last week.
Klayman, who founded the nonprofit group Judicial Watch, gained notoriety for filing multiple lawsuits against the Clinton administration in the 1990s. The lawyer also sued the Bush administration to uncover more information about Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force.
“Because time is short, we have to get this information out before the [conclusion of the healthcare votes],” Klayman told The Hill. “There’s going to be a lot of wheeling and dealing before the month ends.”
In the lawsuit, Klayman alleges that he was “illegally detained” by Secret Service agents at the front gate of the White House after he hand-delivered a letter to agents addressed to President Barack Obama requesting that the administration reply to his information requests.
Klayman says that agents “berated, harassed and threatened” him for his “public advocacy.”
He says that the agents eventually delivered the letter to Obama but that his request for information “was later denied in its entirety.”
Klayman ran for Senate in Florida as a Republican in 2004, losing in the primary.