The White House last week disclosed information on 14 waivers it has granted to exempt 17 appointees from government ethics standards.

The release itself qualifies as good news. That it took so long is less good news: more evidence that this White House too often sees transparency as a nuisance to be resisted. Persistent pressure from the Office of Government Ethics, led by Walter Shaub, resulted in the waivers’ disclosure. Good for Shaub for sticking to his guns.

In the event, there were no blockbuster revelations. The ethics standards generally restrict what former lobbyists, businesspeople and others with pre-existing ties can do within an administration. Specific waivers allow an ex-fossil-fuel lobbyist to advise Trump on energy and environmental issues; no surprise there. Chief strategist Stephen Bannon can communicate with Breitbart News, the conservative website he ran before joining the Trump campaign. Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway is allowed to stay in touch with the conservative groups that had been clients of her polling firm. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is permitted to communicate with the Republican National Committee, which he ran before entering the Trump administration.

Yet the lack of big news underscores an important point.

Transparency does not have to expose significant wrongdoing in order to be essential. Openness discourages egregious behavior, particularly among mid- and lower-level staff who are not under constant media scrutiny.

Presidential advisers will understand that they cannot hold meetings or hire people with the expectation that the public will not notice.

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