Archives for May 2014

CoA Investigation Leads Oversight Committee to Investigate White House Politicization of EPA

Once again, the United States Congress has relied upon Cause of Action’s work to hold federal agencies accountable and demand transparency.

On May 15, 2014, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking for documents based on internal emails Cause of Action obtained showing White House intervention into FOIA and congressional document requests.

OGR seeks documents that will determine “whether White House or EPA employees have engaged in illegal conduct by actively obstructing this Committee’s investigation.”

  • On July 2, 2013, Cause of Action sent a FOIA request to the EPA regarding White House review of document requests, both from FOIA requesters and Congress.
  • The EPA responded to our request with internal e-mails showing the White House delayed an April 10, 2013 joint document request from OGR, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, led by Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA).
  • In response to our findings, on November 7, 2013, OGR subpoenaed the EPA for communications with White House officials regarding the agency’s delay to a congressional document request.

According to the Committee’s latest letter, EPA withheld documents improperly: “When the Committee was finally able to review the unredacted e-mails, it was clear that the redactions applied to the FOIA production were made to hide embarrassing conversations between EPA staff.  The redactions were not, in fact, covered by the FOIA exemptions cited by EPA.  It is unacceptable for EPA to hide behind improper FOIA redactions.”

In March 2014, Cause of Action released a report, Grading the Government: How the White House Targets Document Requesters, detailing how the White House is politicizing FOIA and Congressional document requests.

Cause of Action’s strategic investigations help Congress to expose the hypocrisy of this Administration’s claim to be “the most transparent in history.”  Moreover, Cause of Action has empowered the House Oversight Committee to raise unique constitutional concerns related to alleged obstruction of congressional oversight by the President.

In order to hold EPA accountable and give the American taxpayers transparency, Cause of Action has now sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to EPA requesting all documents provided to Congress pursuant to a subpoena as well as documents evidencing communications between EPA and the White House.

You can read CoA’s letter to the EPA here.

You can read the OGR letter to the EPA here.

See all the documents from Cause of Action’s investigation here.


Oversight Committee Letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy by CauseOfAction

May 19, 2014 FOIA to EPA re White House review of records by CauseOfAction

Reason: The Government’s Bogus Lawsuit Against Buckyballs’ Creator Craig Zucker Ends In a Settlement

Read the full story: Reason

“I believe the case against Mr. Zucker should never have gotten started without an affirmative Commission vote approving the issuance of a complaint against him,” she wrote. This lawsuit consumed two years of Zucker’s life and will cost him as much as $375,000 plus more in legal fees; now, after the case is settled, she speaks out?

With the announcement of a settlement, the government accountability law firm Cause of Action is dropping the countersuit it filed on Zucker’s behalf, but will continue its efforts to uncover why the agency went after him in the first place through Freedom of Information Act litigation. It’ll be interesting to see what Cause of Action can uncover.

Wall Street Journal: Zucker Wins Against the Machine

Read the full story: Wall Street Journal

Individuals increasingly find themselves with little choice but stand up against President Obama’s regulatory machine. So congratulations to Craig Zucker, who scored a modest if still costly victory against the Consumer Product Safety Commission earlier this month.


Mr. Zucker cofounded Maxfield & Oberton, which in 2009 began marketing powerful rare-earth magnets as desk toys for office workers. By 2012 Buckyballs were generating $10 million in sales. Then in July 2012 the CPSC filed an administrative suit against the company, citing the risk of children swallowing the magnets and essentially banning Buckyballs from the marketplace. It did not matter that Maxfield & Oberton had included multiple warning labels and kept Buckyballs out of stores that sell children’s toys.

LabMD Files Appeal, Takes Fight Against FTC Back to 11th Circuit

LabMD Files Appeal, Takes Fight Against FTC Back to 11th Circuit

Judge tells FTC investigation is “a sad comment on your agency” but lacks jurisdiction to stop it

 Washington, D.C. (May 15, 2014) – Today, Cause of Action (CoA) is filing an emergency appeal on behalf of LabMD, following a federal judge’s ruling that he lacked jurisdiction even while telling the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “the public is served by guiding people beforehand rather than beating them up after.”

On May 7, 2014, in open court, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., criticized the FTC for its practice of monitoring blogs containing critical speech, for “parachuting in” to the highly regulated health care field, and for its failure to “tell…[health care companies] what the FTC rules are because they have never told anybody.” He told the FTC that its investigation of LabMD was “a sad comment on your agency …” and that the FTC’s assault against LabMD harmed the “consuming public” by taking LabMD “out of the market” thereby reducing the number of companies providing cancer detection services.  Judge Duffey advised the FTC that it had an obligation to give companies “guidance” as to what it does or does not expect with respect to data security because “the public is served by guiding people beforehand rather than beating them up after …”

However, on May 13, 2014, Judge Duffey ruled he lacked jurisdiction to stop the FTC’s attack against LabMD.

Today, Cause of Action (CoA) is filing an emergency appeal on behalf of LabMD in the 11th Circuit seeking to stop the FTC’s assault.

Daniel Epstein, CoA’s Executive Director said:

“No federal agency should be able to act without authority to damage business and exert power it has never been granted, which is why LabMD must appeal the Federal District Court’s decision. Judge Duffey described the FTC’s aggressive actions against LabMD as ‘a sad comment’ on the agency, and accountability for its over-the-line attempts to insert the agency into the healthcare field must be stopped.

“When a district judge recognizes the egregious and shameful behavior of an agency but rules that he is unable to take action to stop it, the Federal Courts of Appeals are well positioned to ensure that runaway power is not tolerated in our federal system.”



The FTC goes to federal court, and the Judge was not impressed

In a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge William Duffey in the North District of Georgia, the government made some ridiculous arguments and was criticized by a federal judge for shutting down a small business without providing any guidance. Here are some of the highlights from the hearing:

The government claims it monitored a private citizen’s website to ensure he was still able to express his free speech rights

A Department of Justice attorney claimed that Federal Trade Commission employees regularly visited LabMD CEO Michael Daugherty’s personal website to “monitor whether or not he’s still continuing to express his speech.” Judge Duffey responded:

Court on FTC Monitoring part 1

The transcript continues:

Court on FTC Monitoring part 1 interesting and troublign turn

Judge Duffey criticizes the FTC’s actions in reducing the amount of competition in medical detection business by driving LabMD out of the market.

FTC has taken LabMD out of the market


Should a federal agency be able to go after people for not complying with guidance they haven’t given?


FTC should have given guidance


What about the government claiming to use documents as evidence against LabMD when it doesn’t know where the documents came from?

holy cow



Washington Free Beacon: Nonprofit Challenges Government Definition of a Media Outlet

Read the full story: Washington Free Beacon

Cause of Action also points out that the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., recognized a similar watchdog group as a member of the media in a 2003 decision.

“The FTC’s repeated denial of our status as a news media organization threatens all new media and nonprofit news organizations that seek fee waivers for FOIA requests,” Cause of Action president Dan Epstein said in a statement. “Simply because the FTC feared that unfavorable information would be made public, we were unfairly denied access. If every agency behaves like the FTC, it will be devastating to those who fight for government accountability and transparency. The FTC’s job is not to play news editor and decide what is or isn’t news.”

This is the first time a federal appeals court has considered the issue. Because Cause of Action’s appeal will set precedent, the amicus brief argues the case “has implications beyond the outcome for the parties directly involved, and could make it difficult for the news media to fully report on the workings of government for the benefit of the public.”

WSB-TV Channel 2 Atlanta: Ch. 2 investigation finds hundreds of VA patient deaths linked to malpractice

Read the full story:  Channel 2


Channel 2 Action News brought our findings to national government watchdog Daniel Epstein with Cause of Action.

“That not only signals an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars and a mentality and a culture at the top that is totally inappropriate, but it also shows that they’re not really concerned about the problem,” Epstein said.