FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Write bad FOIA requests, advises Democrat researcher

Allan BlutsteinComment

What you missed from our FOIA Slack Chat with Abraham Payton

Cynthia Fernandez, MuckRock, May 9, 2018

Opposition researcher Abraham Payton joined us last Friday to discuss how his company, Due Diligence uses FOIA to investigate public figures.


One of Payton’s top documents he requests are public officials’ emails. These types of requests are often met with resistance from FOIA officers. But even so, Payton recommends that requesters use broad and vague language that might lead to a denied request. Why? To start a conversation with the officer, if nothing else.

Dear FOIA Officer,

I am requesting copies of all incoming-and-outgoing email of John Smith ( from January 1, 2017 to present.

Sincerely, Not an Opposition Researcher

Payton said that “This is deliberately broad in order to provoke engagement,” and that [P]ublic record officers are almost always willing to negotiate and pare down the request.”

After you get denied, use your research.

Read more here.