Archives for August 2015

Weekly Rundown 8-28-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

Daily CallerWatchdog Wins Big FOIA Decision In Federal Appeals Court

Cause of Action has won a major victory for government transparency!  The courts have agreed that it isn’t right for government agencies to use expensive fees to pick and choose who is and who isn’t “a representative of the news media”.  Federal agencies would use this refuse FOIA request fee exemptions and stop smaller/lesser known news outlets and reporters, making them pay the very expensive FOIA fees.  Thanks to this victory, more people have access to the government documents that rightfully belong to the American people.

Daily MailFormer attorney general says classified email scandal ‘disqualifies’ Hillary Clinton from serving as president – IF she’s prosecuted for breaking federal law

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey says that by law Hillary Clinton should be disqualified from being president if she unlawfully destroyed government records.  Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein said “The manner in which former Secretary Clinton stored official email correspondence during her tenure as Secretary of State, and her conduct with those emails subsequent to her resignation, trigger applicable laws and regulations relating to federal records and also raise criminal concerns. At least one applicable penalty is the disqualification from holding the office of President.”

In Other News:

Washington TimesIRS finds yet another Lois Lerner email account (‘Toby Miles’ account linked to government business)

It has been discovered that Lois Lerner was using an email address under the name “Toby Miles”.  This is at least the third email that Lerner was using in addition to her government email and another personal email.  This information was revealed years after the IRS targeting scandal started.

Daily Caller – Clinton’s New Three-Pronged Strategy To Respond To Email Scandal Doesn’t Even Address Emails, Server

Hillary Clinton has a strategy to win back the trust of the people, but not talk about what is the biggest concern the people have.  The former secretary of state plans on educating people on the process of how a document is classified.  Then she wants to focus on the issues, her private server not being one of them.  And finally Mrs. Clinton will actively attempt to defend her time as secretary of state.  With her having to change her story so many times, maybe that’s just easier.

NY PostCaroline Kennedy used private email for government business

Although the State Department defends our ambassador to Japan, Inspector General Steve Linick reported, “confirmed that senior embassy staff used personal email accounts to send and receive messages containing official business.” The Inspector General confirmed that Ambassador Kennedy was using a personal email account in an official capacity.

Wall Street JournalThe EPA’s Own Email Problem (Another government employee, another private account, another crashed hard drive.)

That’s right, another government email scandal.  Phillip North, a biologist for the Environmental Protection Agency, was using a private email to conduct EPA business to ensure results fell in line with his own personal beliefs.  Instead of being the unbiased scientist, Mr. North used a private email account to advance his own agenda and has since left the country.

Cause of Action Scores Victory Against IRS: Federal Judge Says Agency Can’t Use Laws Meant To Protect Taxpayers To Protect Itself

Media Contact: Geoff Holtzman | | 703-405-3511

WASHINGTON — In a significant victory for transparency advocates, a federal judge today ordered the IRS to turn over potential requests that the White House may have made to the agency in search of private taxpayer information.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that the IRS cannot hide behind taxpayer confidentiality laws, known as section 6103 of the tax code, in order to refuse to say whether those records may exist.

Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling:

“As we have said all along, this administration cannot misinterpret the law in order to potentially hide evidence of wrongdoing. No administration is above the law, and we are pleased that the court has sided with us on this important point.”

In her opinion, Judge Berman Jackson wrote:

“Congress amended section 6103 in 1976 ‘in the wake of Watergate and White House efforts to harass those on its ‘enemies list,’’ in order to ‘restrict[] government officers and employees from revealing ‘any return’ or ‘return information,’’ and its ‘core purpose’ is to ‘protect[] taxpayer privacy.’

“So, this Court questions whether section 6103 should or would shield records that indicate that confidential taxpayer information was misused, or that government officials made an improper attempt to access that information.

“The IRS argues that ‘section 6103’s definition of ‘return information’ . . . makes no distinction based on the purpose for which a person might seek disclosure of the documents.’ But accepting this argument would require a finding that even requests for return information that could involve a violation of section 6103 constitute ‘return information’ that is exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 3 and section 6103.

“The Court is unwilling to stretch the statute so far, and it cannot conclude that section 6103 may be used to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit.”


Cause of Action filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) to discover any records of an investigation into whether unauthorized officials at the White House may have illegally accessed private taxpayer information.

We sent this FOIA after TIGTA admitted that it had launched such a review in response to a letter from six Republican senators. However, TIGTA’s forthcoming report was never released to the senators or the public.

Our FOIA request to both agencies was then divided into two separate FOIA lawsuits; one against the IRS and one against TIGTA. The court’s holding today requires the IRS to go back and search for records that it previously tried to shield from disclosure.

Federal Court Limits Agency Abuse of News Media Requesters: Cause of Action Changes Legal Landscape for Government Accountability

WASHINGTON – Today, in a watershed victory for government transparency and accountability, the D.C. Circuit Court rejected a lower court’s limited reading of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Court’s opinion is one of the most important transparency decisions in decades.


Marking a victory for Cause of Action, a government oversight group committed to limiting the abuse of federal power, the Court rejected the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) attempt to block Cause of Action from obtaining access to documents by improperly charging fees. Instead, the Court remanded for reconsideration of Cause of Action’s status as a representative of the news media and its request as being one in the public interest.

Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision is the most significant court ruling for the news media in over a quarter-century and represents a major victory in the fight to make the federal government more transparent. As a result of this ruling, the ability of federal agencies to deny fee waivers in order to stifle the release of information has been significantly limited. We, together with our partners from the Reporters Committee, are hopeful that this decision spurs a new era of greater public access to information.”

FOIA fees have been notoriously abused by agencies to prevent startup – and even well-established – nonprofit news media organizations from obtaining government documents under fair treatment and without prohibitive fees. Notably, the Court pointed out today that fee waiver determinations are subject to judicial review, establishing that the law treats nonprofit and new media organizations equally with traditional news organizations, like newspapers and broadcast media.


In 2011, Cause of Action sought records under the FOIA from the FTC, stating we were interested in the requested documents to “inform the public about a threat to the First Amendment rights.” Cause of Action said that because we are “a nonprofit educational organization with no commercial purpose,” we are entitled to a public-interest fee waiver.

The FTC denied our request for waiver of fees in the public interest. We responded to FTC’s denial, stating FTC was incorrect and demonstrated why our request was in the public interest. Cause of Action argued that alternatively, we should be granted a fee waiver as a member of the news media.

The FTC refused, saying Cause of Action was not a news media organization entitled to a fee waiver because we had not proven we could disseminate information. The FTC gave us 100 pages without charge, pursuant to agency policy, and withheld the rest of the production pending Cause of Action’s payment of fees. Our organization refused to pay the fee and made two subsequent FOIA requests to the FTC, and received the same response each time. During that process, the FTC released 300 pages of information without charge, but withheld the rest until we paid.

Cause of Action sought review of the FTC’s decision in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in 2012, challenging both the FTC’s decision to withhold some of the responsive records as exempt from disclosure and its denial of Cause of Action’s applications for fee waivers. The District Court ruled in favor of the FTC, and Cause of Action, joined with amici the Daily Caller News Foundation and the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which issued today’s opinion.

Weekly Rundown 8-21-2015

In the News:

CNNClinton aides’ BlackBerry phones likely destroyed

According to the State Department it is their procedure to destroy outdated BlackBerry phones, but State Department spokesman John Kirby said they were probably reset to factory settings after being returned.  The State Department claims to have no idea where the phones could have ended up if they weren’t destroyed.

Washington PostHillary Clinton won’t say if her server was wiped

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to claim that she is doing everything in her power to cooperate with the FBI and that she has no idea if her server was wiped or not.  None of the now discovered classified emails were written by Mrs. Clinton, according to the State Department.

PoliticoJudge says Hillary Clinton’s private emails violated policy

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan was in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit hearing when he stated “We wouldn’t be here today if this employee had followed government policy.”  He was referring to Hillary Clinton and her lack of regard for the rules when she used a private server when sending and receiving work emails.

Daily CallerInhofe: EPA’s Trying To Regulate Sewers

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to increase its regulatory reach by claiming they can regulate places that USED TO BE streams and wetlands.  It used to be standard to build sewers in existing streams.  In order to figure out the impact the Clean Water Act will have on city sewer systems Sen. Jim Inhofe has contacted the EPA for clarification.


The practice of bringing your own device (BYOD) to use for work purposes has been banned in many federal agencies. You may be wondering what nefarious means federal employees have used to bypass the ban.  It’s actually very simple.  Federal employees just use their own devices anyway.

Fox NewsIRS targeting scheme is a scandal with no end in sight

“Evil” and “dishonest” were the words Lois Learner used to describe the Republicans who had her testify about the IRS targeting scandal.  Lois Learner also didn’t like the pictures taken of her in the courtroom saying, “I looked like crap. I don’t look like that anymore, but it serves their purposes of hate mongering to continue to use those images.”  These statements do not help Ms. Learner’s case that she was unbiased in her role as Director of Exempt Organizations.

Weekly Rundown 8-14-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

Wall Street JournalOpinion Journal: Hillary Email Scandal: What’s Next?

Watch Cause of Action’s executive director Dan Epstein talk about the Hillary Clinton email scandal with Mary Kissel on Opinion Journal.

National Law JournalClinton Email Saga Means Work for Big Law

Clinton has defended her use of a private email server to conduct official business. Several judges are overseeing lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over access to those emails as well as emails and other records from former Clinton staffers at the State Department. They’ve expressed frustration with the department’s speed in making documents public. Government watchdog groups Judicial Watch and Cause of Action filed a lawsuit earlier this year accusing the State Department of violating federal recordkeeping laws.

The HillTurmoil mounts surrounding Clinton emails

According to Cause of Action’s Dan Epstein Hillary Clinton is setting herself up to be a “cooperating witness for a potentially larger criminal investigation beyond Ms. Clinton herself.” Hillary Clinton is attempting to shrug off the fact that classified emails have been found that were held on her private server.

Washington Free Beacon – Cronyism Lawsuit Against Energy Department’s $25 Billion Green Energy Program Advances (Federal judge rules ‘political favoritism’ lawsuit against DOE can proceed)

“For the first time, a federal district court has confirmed there is a legal remedy when cronyism influences federal administrative discretionary spending. This groundbreaking opinion establishes that the government owes everyone—not just presidential campaign donors—a fair shake when awarding government funds.” Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action sums up the court’s decision to allow our lawsuit against the Department of Energy to continue.

In other news:

Washington PostHillary Clinton’s e-mail server turned over to FBI

The e-mail server used by Hillary Rodham Clinton when she served as secretary of state was turned over to the FBI late Wednesday afternoon from a private data center in New Jersey, according to an attorney familiar with the transfer.


THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION (SORT OF) EXPLAINS HOW EXACTLY IT DEFINES ANTI-TRUST BEHAVIOR. This may be good news for leading tech firms: For the first time in more than a century, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has defined what “competition” means and what constitutes “anti-competitive behavior.” The decision is significant for companies like Google, Facebook, Intel, and Apple, which have all received unwanted scrutiny from the FTC—though it may not clear things up as much as they would like.

Fox NewsWatchdog accuses OPM of hindering hack investigation

The Office of Personnel Management has intentionally slowed the investigation looking into the data breach of millions of federal employees claims the OPM inspector general.  Inspector General Patrick McFarland has said that he is no longer sure that the OPM chief information officer is “acting in good faith”.

Weekly Rundown 8-6-2015

Cause of Action in the News

The Hill – A case study in pay-to-play cronyism

“News flash: Government subsidies and special-interests go hand in hand.” This is how executive director of Cause of Action, Daniel Epstein, starts in his latest Op-Ed.  He goes on to explain in a little more detail how the Department of Energy has shown favoritism, specifically in regard to the “Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program.”  Our lawsuit against the Department of Energy is an attempt to prevent such irresponsible use of the American people’s tax dollars.

Washington Free Beacon – Cause of Action Sues State for Clinton Records Failure

In a continued push for government accountability, Cause of Action is suing Secretary of State Kerry and the National Archivist for their failure to perform their duty to make certain that the emails of former Secretary Clinton were not deleted. We believe this lack of transparency does not benefit the American people and should not be allowed to continue.

Washington Examiner – State Dept. blocked FOIA, congressional requests at Obama’s request dozens of times

Requests from Cause of Action to the State Department go unanswered because the State Department needs to get approval from the White House.  The State Department has denied sending documents because they are considered “White House Equities”, a vague description that allows the White House to prevent the turnover of documents that may be embarrassing to the administration.  When Cause of Action requested proof that the documents were sent to the White House, not the documents themselves, the State Department would not provide anything as simple as a cover letter.

In other news:

NY Post – FBI investigation of Hillary’s emails is ‘criminal probe’

Sources say that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal server is more serious than originally portrayed.  While Clinton’s people brush off the FBI inquiry the NY Post source claims “It’s definitely a criminal probe. I’m not sure why they’re not calling it a criminal probe.” As serious as this seems to be, nothing has been heard from the Clinton camp.

Washington Post – Inspectors general to Congress: Allow us access to records to help us root out corruption

The Department of Justice has decided that the inspectors general who need to look at what they consider sensitive law enforcement information must ask for approval from the agency they are investigating.  The Council of Inspectors General has reached out to congress for help in removing this obstacle.  The council explains that the inability to work outside of the knowledge of the investigated agencies could lead to delays and the inability to gather all relevant information.  In addition, the Inspectors General fear that the decision by the Justice Department may discourage whistleblowers from coming forward.