FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Congress evades the FOIA

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Why FOIA Obligations Don't Apply To Congress

By Charles S. Clark,  Gov't Executive, Mar. 25, 2016

Agencies employees frustrated by oversight demands of lawmakers have often wondered why the public disclosure obligations under the 50-year-old Freedom of Information Act do not apply to Congress itself.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and some in the transparency advocacy community have in the past pressed for more disclosure requirements for lawmakers, as has the Obama administration (though it removed its own Office of Administration from FOIA coverage a year ago).

In a press briefing last June, White House spokesman Josh Earnest jabbed Congress after an oversight hearing criticized the administration for having processed only 647,000 FOIA requests the previous fiscal year.

"I would note that that is 647,000 more FOIA requests than were processed by the United States Congress," he told reporters. "And those who are interested in advocating for genuine transparency and government should advocate for Congress being subject to those kinds of transparency measures."

To no one’s surprise, the FOIA reform bills that have cleared Congress in the past year do not contain any language broadening the disclosure demands on lawmakers themselves.

Read more here.