Archives for August 2014

Washington Times: Lawsuit accuses Obama White House of thwarting release of public data under FOIA

Read the full story: Washington Times

“The White House is demanding access to records and otherwise influencing agencies’ FOIA obligations to produce responsive documents in a manner that is not countenanced by the law,” CoA argued in its lawsuit. “Indeed, the ‘most transparent administration in history’ has injected itself into a process (FOIA) presumably to self-regulate what agency records are produced to the public.”

The suit references a June 30 story in The Washington Times that reported on the impact of the “White House equities” memo and quoted FOIA officers at federal agencies as saying the new review process had been used to keep information embarrassing to the Obama administration from being released.

Washington Free Beacon: Lawsuit: White House Delaying FOIA Requests

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A government watchdog group announced Monday that it is suing a dozen federal agencies for improperly delaying Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for White House review.


Cause of Action is suing 10 cabinet agencies, as well as the Internal Revenue Service and White House Office of Management and Budget, for failing to release documents regarding how the White House reviews agency FOIA requests.

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

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.


Washington Post: Lawsuit claims White House reviews hinder FOIA requests

Read the full story: Washington Post

Cause of Action said the agencies have not handed over documents the organization asked for up to 14 months ago and that the requests appear to be under White House review, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Washington Post. The group plans to file its lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.


Cause of Action pointed to an April 2009 White House memo as the source of the delays, noting that Gregory Craig, former counsel to President Obama, instructed federal agencies to consult with his office on “all document requests that may involve documents with White House equities.”

Cause of Action Submits Statement to House Oversight Committee Demonstrating IRS’s Improper Use of Tax Code to Block Transparency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                     CONTACT:

August 7, 2014                                 Mary Beth Hutchins, (202) 400-4232

Cause of Action Submits Statement to House Oversight Committee
Demonstrating IRS’s Improper Use of Tax Code to Block Transparency

Washington, DC – Cause of Action (CoA), a government accountability organization, submitted a Statement for the record today to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) highlighting the Federal Government’s inconsistent and overbroad application of taxpayer confidentiality laws, therefore blocking transparency.  The Statement accompanies an OGR hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) abuses and targeting of conservative and libertarian groups.

“It’s alarmingly clear that the IRS improperly interpreted the tax code in order to hamper government transparency,” said Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein.  “The IRS is picking and choosing when and how the law is convenient for its purposes, which is just wrong. Its actions are frustrating public access to records that may demonstrate wrongdoing by Federal officials. Therefore, Congress needs to start us down the path of meaningful reform by preventing agencies from continuing to use laws intended to protect taxpayers as a sword against political enemies and shield for political allies.”

Cause of Action’s Statement for the Record addresses a number of key issues:

  • The IRS chooses when and how to release records based on the agency’s level of interest in keeping the subject matter hidden from scrutiny.
  • The IRS at times misuses law that was intended to protect confidential taxpayer information as a shield to prevent access to records that could show wrongdoing by Federal officials.
  • The IRS, when confronted with its inconsistent use of the law, shockingly stated that the agency is not bound by the actions of its managers.
  • The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration denied access to records about the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information to the White House, relying upon an overbroad interpretation of the law.

Read the Statement for the Record here.

About Cause of Action:

Cause of Action is a non-profit, nonpartisan government accountability organization that fights to protect economic opportunity when federal regulations, spending, and cronyism threaten it.  For more information, visit

To schedule an interview with Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein, contact Mary Beth Hutchins,

Washington Examiner: CFPB exec sought ways to shield bank documents from public

Read the full story: Washington Examiner

Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein said the Pluta emails appear to be an effort to improperly withhold official documents.


“Federal agencies cannot avoid their transparency obligations simply because they want to. Cause of Action has previously exposed how CFPB advises its employees to FOIA-proof their work calendars, but these new documents evidence an overt attempt by a senior CFPB employee to change standard protocol in order to improperly shield records from the public,” Epstein said.

Read the documents:

CFPB Emails by Cause of Action