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White House Opens "Office of Public Engagement," Releases Citizen's Briefing Book

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, May 11 2009

The White House Office of Public Liaison, the White House announced today, is being renamed to better capture the hope of the Obama Administration that the office will be the point of contact for American citizens as they interact with the executive branch. Presenting the White House Office of Public Engagement.

The White House released the names of a staff of 20 aides who, under the direction of Valerie Jarrett, Christina Tchen, and Michael Strautmanis, will staff a newly wired OPE that aims to reach beyond official Washington. (The celebrity implications are unavoidable; the list of OPE staffers notably doesn't include Kal Penn, who was said to be leaving the TV show "House" to serve in the liaison's office.) From the White House press release:

OPE will help build relationships with Americans by increasing their meaningful engagement with the federal government. Serving as the front door to the White House, OPE will allow ordinary Americans to offer their stories and ideas regarding issues that concern them and share their views on important topics such as health care, energy and education.

In addition to its traditional White House operations, OPE will now also focus on getting information from the American people outside the Washington beltway through special public events as well as activities on the web site. The office will have a strong on-line presence, including blog postings from OPE staff and other interactive elements.

As one of the new OPE's first official acts, they released the Citizen's Briefing Book, a collaborative document compiled online during the presidential transition. The top ideas seem to be ported as written from Change.gov into the 32-page pdf document. The top item in the technology section, for example, is the suggestion that President Obama "Boost America’s Economy with Legal Online Poker."