The White House’s Google Calendar

The White House’s most recent monthly release of visitor records was extraordinary in that it included a comprehensive dump of records for the second half of September 2009. Previous releases were limited to records for names specifically requested by reporters and other watchdogs; this one includes every single visitor record. Kudos to the White House for releasing the data (still wondering about that tunnel, though).

At 30,000 records, the data set is bulky, so I used a spreadsheet to pare it down a bit (eliminating 20,000 records for people who toured the White House), then uploaded some select records into a Google Calendar for easy viewing.

Below is a window onto the appointment books of the most powerful players in the White House for the second half of September.: Rahm Emanuel (yellow), Larry Summers (red), Valerie Jarrett (blue), and President Obama (green).

If you’d like to de-select the appointments of some of these individuals, you can do so using the arrow at the top right of the chart. One nice thing about the calendar view, as opposed to the Socrata table released by the White House: you can actually see who was at each meeting.

The visitors are pretty much who you’d expect: Treasury officials, financiers, oil lobbyists, geoengineers (naturally). I’ve started identifying the individuals who met with Summers, but most of these folks deserve full profiles on LittleSis — sign up for the cause and help build them if they aren’t in the system yet, especially the ones who met with one of these officials alone or in the company of a few others.

There are several notable meetings during this relatively short span of time, a sign that this will become a very rich data set as the White House continues its monthly releases:

  • Summers hosted Chevron CEO David O’Reilly, in-house lobbyist Lisa Barry, and hired gun Mickey Kantor, Secretary of Commerce and US Trade Representative during the Clinton administration. Kantor has been helping Chevron fight a massive lawsuit brought against the company by indigenous groups in Ecuador. The lobbying effort doesn’t seem to have worked, according to Politico, but at least they got a good meeting with Larry.
  • Summers met with David Golden, an executive at Revolution LLC, a company started by Steve Case.  Summers used to sit on the board of Revolution Money, a company that is partially owned by Revolution.  Goldman Sachs is also an investor in Revolution Money.
  • Jarrett met with a group of airline executives and lobbyists, including former Rahm aide Jonathan Hoganson, Delta CEO Richard H Anderson,  and United CEO Glenn Tilton.  The airlines have been lobbying against a new climate change-related emissions tax.
  • Rahm Emanuel met with John W Rowe on September 29.  Unless I am mistaken (it’s a common name), Rowe is the CEO of Exelon, the Chicago-based electric utility that left the Chamber of Commerce the day before, on September 28.  Rowe is also a big Obama donor.
  • Two Harvard Law classmates of Obama show up in Jarrett’s calendar: Brian Mathis (a major fundraiser, hedge fund manager, and former Rubin Treasury staffer) and Kenneth Mack (a Harvard Law professor who helped convince Obama to run for president of the Law Review).

There’s lots more here, especially when you expand the data beyond these four visitees.  
Down the road, with the proper resources, we’d like to start integrating this kind of data on LittleSis. Imagine accessing your favorite White House official’s appointment book from his or her profile page, with links to the profiles of the individuals they met with. Also, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before someone makes a great app for navigating the data.

For now, you can explore it on Google Calendar, and add prominent visitors to the database if they aren’t there already.

Update: I just got word from Sunlight Foundation (major funder of LittleSis) that they have created a awesome new tool that helps cross-reference the data in the visitor logs. You can use it to quickly search Google, Wikipedia, Open Secrets, Follow the Money, or LittleSis for more info on the names listed in the visitor logs.

Here’s Sunlight Labs Director Clay Johnson, from the press release:

“The White House’s decision to make visitor data public is yet another positive step toward making government more accountable,” said Clay Johnson, director of Sunlight Labs. “Because they released the data online in a structured format, we have an opportunity to add contextual information to gain more insight into how the White House is developing its policies.”

We couldn’t agree more, and we’re happy that LittleSis has been included as a tool to help users find this contextual information. LittleSis also offers users the ability to add new data about the visitors, and we will be using the tool to help make sure that we have profiles for key names in the data set.