Archives for October 2014

Legal Insurrection: Save the whales! (Just don’t feed them.)

Read the full story: Legal Insurrection

The real problem with these regulations, however, has less to do with the rules themselves, and more to do with the consequences that befall those who break the rules. Groups like Cause of Action help those who fall under the hammer of big government regulation fight back against overcriminalization and in some cases, recoup their losses. They’re currently defending marine biologist Nancy Black after an alleged violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA.)

Cause of Action Signs Coalition Letter Asking for OGIS Investigation of Administrative Closures

Cause of Action and 13 other groups sent a joint letter to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) urging it to investigate the unauthorized and abusive practice by administrative agencies of sending “administrative closure” letters in lieu of responding to proper requests for information.  The Freedom of Information Act gives anyone the right to request documents from a federal agency but various administrative agencies are finding a backdoor way to close requests without producing documents.  Specifically, after delays of months and, at times, years, FOIA officers are writing to requestors that unless the requestor provides certain information within a proscribed short period of time, the agency is going to close the request.  The effect of such a closure is that if the requestor is forced to send a new request, it will go to the end of the line for processing (resulting in further delays of months to years).  The coalition letter requests an investigation into this practice, and Cause of Action is hopeful that such an investigation will result in a directive to agencies to end this practice.

Read the letter here.


Read the full story: Breitbart

The conservative watchdog group Cause of Action says the Senate Ethics Committee is claiming to have misplaced an ethics complaint about Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) sent over 300 days ago — and that the committee acknowledge receiving at the time.


“It is a little mysterious that we have a return receipt from the Senate mail and they say they never received it. That’s a comfortable excuse for not investigating something,” Dan Epstein, the Executive Director of Cause of Action, said in an interview with Breitbart News Tuesday.

Washington Examiner: Poof: Casino ethics complaint against Reid disappears

Read the full story: Washington Examiner

The conservative watchdog group Cause of Action said that it has had to refile the complaint that alleges Reid pressured the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to hasten EB-5 visa application reviews for overseas investors in the SLS Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.


The group said that Reid’s son Rory and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins P.C., were the lawyers for SLS, raising potential conflicts.


According to a letter provided to Secrets, the group sent the original complaint on Oct. 16, 2013. It said that the Senate Ethics Committee received it Dec. 20, and it provided the receipt to prove it.

The Nancy Black Story: Video Explains Dangers of Overcriminalization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             CONTACT:      

October 29, 2014                                         Mary Beth Hutchins, 202-400-2721

The Nancy Black Story: Video Explains Dangers of Overcriminalization

WASHINGTON – Cause of Action (CoA), a government oversight organization, today released “The Nancy Black Story,” a video recounting how a federal government agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), disrupted a respected marine biologist’s work and threatened her freedom and her livelihood through overcriminalization.

Watch Nancy Black’s story here:

Cause of Action defended Ms. Nancy Black, a highly-esteemed marine biologist who researches the lives and behavior of killer whales.  She was criminally charged with violating a Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) regulation prohibiting feeding marine mammals in the wild.  Every other alleged violation of this regulation has resulted in relatively modest fines or, in a recent case with far more egregious facts, forfeiture of an old boat.  Here, however, the government’s original charges could have resulted in up to 27 years in prison, a $700,000 fine and forfeiture of her research vessel.  Ms. Black’s defense team was able to resolve the case through a no-jail plea agreement in which Ms. Black pled guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of “feeding” for which she received 3 years of probation, a $12,500 fine and 300 hours of community service.

According to CoA’s Executive Director, Dan Epstein, “When the government has excessive administrative discretion that lacks accountability and transparency, overreach and abuse are inevitably rampant. Overcriminalization of federal agency regulations undermines the rule of law, eroding the principles of intent and notice that protect the average citizen’s rights and freedoms.”

Reed Rubinstein, vice president for litigation at Cause of Action, said, “Americans need to know about the risks of overcriminalization and how their government is abusing its authority. Cause of Action is committed to taking steps to educate the public and push back against rogue agencies.”

On November 5, 2014, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on another overcriminalization case, Yates v. US, in which a commercial fisherman who threw overboard “undersized” fish was convicted of violating the Sarbanes-Oxley law, a corporate document destruction law prohibiting the shredding of documents. CoA’s amicus briefs in support of the petition for certiorari and in support of Mr. Yates may be found here and 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,



Las Vegas Review-Journal: Ethics panel ‘never received’ complaint against Reid

Read the full story: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Cause of Action went public this week saying the committee had never responded to its complaint filed Dec. 16. Executive Director Daniel Epstein suggested it had either been dismissed without notification, or ignored.


In a letter made public on Friday, the group said it got a call back from the committee staff director indicating the complaint was “never received.”


Cause of Action then refiled the complaint, calling for prompt consideration. At the same time, it produced copies of a postal receipt showing the original packet was delivered and signed at a Senate address Dec. 20.


It was not clear whether the mail was delivered to the committee’s office or to a holding facility where Senate mail is scanned for security.


“The notion that committee staff may have lost or otherwise misplaced Cause of Action’s complaint against the majority leader is plausible,” Epstein said Friday. “However the available evidence contradicts the committee’s claim.”

FOIA Documents: DOJ Assett Forfeitures

FOIA Request (July 2, 2012)
Production (August 6, 2012)