FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                 

August 18, 2014

Cause of Action Sues A Dozen Federal Agencies for Allowing the White House to Obstruct Transparency

WASHINGTON – Cause of Action (CoA), a government accountability organization, sued 10 cabinet agencies, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Internal Revenue Service today for refusing to disclose communications concerning documents the agencies shared with the White House. The records would reveal whether and how the White House politicizes records requests sent to federal agencies.

“Accountable and transparent government does not involve instructing agencies to send politically sensitive records to the White House for review. The bureaucracy has violated the law by stonewalling the public’s access to documents for political reasons. Cause of Action’s own investigation reveals that the White House is actually demanding access from agencies to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and Congressional document requests, as well as the documents subject to those requests, in a manner that may obstruct congressional oversight and violate the spirit of FOIA,” stated Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director.

After sending 22 FOIA requests between 2013 and 2014 to various agencies regarding the review of agency records by the Office of White House Counsel and releasing a report in April of this year about “White House equities,” a broad term the White House uses to review and advise agencies on what should or shouldn’t be released to FOIA requesters and Congress, 10 of the agencies have responded to Cause of Action.

Cause of Action’s White House equities investigation previously uncovered internal emails from the Environmental Protection Agency showing that the White House improperly withheld documents related to a request from Congress, leading to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee. Cause of Action also obtained documents revealing that a public records appeal filed by Americans for Limited Government with the Department of Labor (DOL) concerning former Secretary Hilda Solis’ calendars was held up for years before DOL released the information, showing that agencies are hiding responsive documents, or delaying the production of responsive documents, because of what they are sharing with the White House.

In addition to the Internal Revenue Service and Office of Management and Budget, the remaining cabinet level agencies that have gone an average of eight months without producing documents are:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of State
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of the Treasury.

The lawsuit, along with our exhibits, can be found here and here.

You can find more information on White House equities here.