Archives for February 2013

Morning News for Monday, February 25, 2013

From the Washington Examiner:

By any fair estimate, the NLRB, which is funded with taxpayer dollars, has operated as a vehicle for Big Labor to achieve bureaucratic victories it could not otherwise see enacted in the legislature.

From Huffington Post:

Helen Grieco’s strange post “Tilting at Windmills” (Huff Post Green, February 20, 2013) takes a lot of cheap shots at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm. The post is riddled with errors and false implications.

Wall Street Journal:

Senate Democrats are in a hurry to confirm Jack Lew as Secretary of the Treasury before anyone notices his biography. Otherwise, liberal lawmakers might be embarrassed voting for a man who represents everything they’ve been campaigning against.

Cause of Action Statement on Chairman Hastings’ Committee Report

Cause of Action applauds Natural Resources Committee for their call to appoint permanent Inspector General at the DOI

WASHINGTON – Cause of Action, a government accountability and watchdog group applauds the House Committee on Natural Resources for their call to appoint a permanent Inspector General at the Department of Interior. CoA agrees that the acting Inspector General has “not been aggressive in blowing the whistle on misdeeds by the current Administration.”

Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein called into question accountability at the DOI:

“On November 29, 2012 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar denied the renewal of a Special Use Permit to Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a family-run, sustainable oyster farm located in Point Reyes National Park.  In the process of making this decision, Cause of Action has found that the Secretary failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Data Quality Act among others.  In failing to investigate these violations, we have found acting Inspector General Mary Kendall to be negligent in her duties as Acting Inspector General.  Senator David Vitter even wrote a letter to the acting IG herself, expressing concerns that the OIG may have gone out of its way to protect Interior employees she was supposed to be independently investigating.

While it is evident the DOI significantly lacks oversight, accountability and transparency, acting IG Kendall has allowed actions at the department to go unchecked. Perhaps it would be best to look elsewhere for a more credible, reliable, and ethical permanent IG.”

For more information on Drakes Bay Oyster Company and their lawsuit against Secretary Salazar, the National Parks Service, and the Department of the Interior, click here.

Morning News for Friday, February 22, 2013

Coverage of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company continues. More from Point Reyes Light:

An Interior Department watchdog report released earlier this month that was intended to quiet allegations of scientific misconduct in evaluating the noise impacts of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company instead unleashed more cacophony this week.

New information released in the USDA sensitivity training event, the Daily Caller reports:

Additional clips of a United States Department of Agriculture sensitivity training class feature USDA employees being told to recite, “If we work for a federal agency, we’ve discriminated in the past.”

Electric car company Tesla Motors hopes to be profitable this next quarter – something that will help them pay that big DOE green energy loan they borrowed. Read Green Car Reports:

“We expect to be slightly profitable (excluding only non-cash option and warrant-related expenses) in Q1 2013,” it wrote in a letter to shareholders on its financial results just after the stock market closed yesterday afternoon.


Morning News for Thursday, February 21, 2013

From The Daily Caller: Another EPA administrator caught using a private email account.  

Emails released by the Environmental Protection Agency show that acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe used a private email account to conduct official business, which violates EPA policy and has raised questions about whether he was trying to shield communications from public disclosure.

The Oversight Committee is investigating whether contracts worth $500 million came from a personal relationship between an IRS employee and the owner of a computer company. The Washington Guardian reports:

“At best, this is a conflict of interest that runs afoul of … Federal Acquisition Regulation,” Issa writes. “At worst, the IRS may have a situation in which a contracting official is awarding sole source contracts based on false justifications, or receiving kickbacks in exchange for government contracts.”

The Supreme Court is considering an issue of how FOIA rights are treated by states. Read more from Politico

Freedom of Information laws were before the Supreme Court Wednesday, but the issue wasn’t the usual one of what is and isn’t off limits. Instead, the justices were trying to sort out whether states have the right to limit the use of such laws to their own citizens and companies.

Morning News for Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From NBC Bay Area:

Dollar oysters, already a happy hour rarity, could be a thing of the past once the supply of ocean-bound bivalves shortens following the closure of Drakes Bay Oysters Co., according to reports.

From the Washington Examiner:

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., revealed that he has found “widespread” use of banned, unofficial email accounts at the Environmental Protection Agency. At least two regional administrators used the unofficial email accounts, including the acting agency leader and one person resigning as the investigation gets underway.


Three years after the landmark Citizens United decision that dramatically changed campaign finance laws, the Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will take up another campaign finance case challenging how much donors can give to campaigns and committees.

Most Transparent Administration in History?

While taking questions during a Google hangout last week, President Obama stated that his administration was the “most transparent administration in history,” and that he could “document that this is the case.” He pointed to the fact that the White House now documents every visitor, and “just about every law that we pass and rule that we implement we put online for everyone to see.”

Interesting words for a President whose administration saw a 28% rise in FOIA lawsuits. Agency FOIA regulations are so outdated that the National Security Archive is saying that they “undermine freedom of Information.”  Bloomberg News found that more than half of the cabinet members’ offices ignored FOIA requests from the international news agency, and had yet to respond 6 months after the initial request.

To the President, publishing ‘just about every law or rule’ may seem transparent enough, but it isn’t good enough for the public—the people affected by those laws and rules that don’t fall into the “just about” category. Just ask the Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors (HARDI), who stood to suffer tremendously from a DOE regulation that skipped several important steps in transparency and instead became a rogue Direct Final Rule.

The President also neglected to mention that while all visitors to the White House become part of the record, White House staff members occasionally meet lobbyists at a Caribou Coffee across the street from their office to avoid being recorded.

Since we last outlined this administration’s failures on transparency, a new list of failures has emerged:

  • The National Archives and Records Administration denied our FOIA request and appeal for documents related to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Our request was made to uncover the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and the lack of openness in government has forced us to file suit for records that should be public.
  • On February 4, the two ranking members on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy regarding “outdated FOIA regulations, exorbitant and possibly illegal fee assessments, FOIA backlogs, the excessive use and abuse of exemptions, and dispute resolution services.” The committee is concerned with the fact that “62 of 92 government agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations” and “31 agencies have regulations more than a decade old.”
  • The White House press corps has become fed up with the lack of access to the President.

According to the Project Vote Smart’s database, prior to last week’s claim, President Obama had not mentioned federal government transparency since August of 2012 when he said, “The Administration’s efforts to continuously add more transparency, accountability, and certainty into the permitting and review process will enable project developers and private investors to more efficiently modernize our nation’s infrastructure.”

Isn’t it time that the President made a commitment to transparency with his actions, instead of just his words?

CoA signs letters to President Obama, Oversight Committee re: FOIA

Today Cause of Action joined and a coalition of watchdog/accountability groups in signing a letter addressed to President Obama to urge him to bring renewed attention to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

We strongly agree with your statements in the January 21, 2009 Memorandum that the FOIA “encourages accountability through transparency,” and “is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.” However, as we have discussed with you and your staff, delays and other barriers in FOIA practice at the agency level continue to prevent the public from timely access to information about the federal government’s activities.

Read the full text of the letter to President Obama here.


Cause of Action also signed a letter sent to Chairman Darrell Issa and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to thank them for their work to hold agencies accountable for implementing FOIA.

As you point out in your letter, FOIA is an important option the public has for accessing information about the government’s activities. This tool is much less meaningful, however, if the public cannot use it to get timely access to the information to which they are entitled. Your letter is an excellent step towards identifying where a lack of oversight and attention on the part of OIP is contributing to these problems. We hope you will share your responses from OIP with the public, and look forward to future oversight hearings.

Read the full text of the letter to the Oversight Committee here.