Archives for February 2019

Cause of Action Institute Sues VA for Failing to Release Documents Concerning Tomah Medical Center

2017 Pharmacy Malfunction Could Have Put Veterans Lives At-Risk

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2019) – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department Veteran Affairs for failing to properly respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request relating to the scandal-ridden Tomah VA Medical Center. The FOIA request, filed more than a year ago, concerned pharmacy operations that could have put countless veterans’ lives at risk.

John Vecchione, president and CEO of Cause of Action Institute:

“Our nation’s veterans deserve the utmost care and respect, and news reports of the Tomah VA Medical Center’s pharmacy center distributing potentially spoiled medicines are deeply concerning. Our veterans and taxpayers demand full transparency about existing and previous challenges concerning this facility and the services the Tomah VA provides to our veterans. Cause of Action Institute is dedicated to exposing corruption and holding government officials accountable, and ensuring our veterans receive the care, concern, and respect they deserve.”


In 2018, Cause of Action Institute submitted a FOIA request to the Tomah VA Medical Center after news reports indicated the center’s outpatient pharmacy center had suffered a “climate-control malfunction” resulting in temperatures in the facility housing medication reaching “97 degrees for at least an hour.” The high temperatures at the facility led to spoilage of the pharmacy’s medical stock, but VA officials continued to distribute medicine “for about four hours.” CoA Institute submitted a FOIA request for all records concerning the failure of the climate control system, as well as efforts to investigate the improper dispensing of potentially damaged medicines.

In May 2018, the VA Great Lakes Health Care System, which oversees the Tomah VA Medical Center, responded to CoA Institute’s FOIA, but withheld and redacted countless documents. CoA Institute filed a timely appeal on Aug. 6, 2018, explaining that the agency had “improperly relied on Exemptions 3, 5, and 6; failed to segregate non-exempt material from responsible records; failed to meet its burden under the FOIA’s “foreseeable harm” standard; improperly redacted portions of records as “non-responsive”; and failed to conduct an adequate search for responsive records.”

To date, the VA has failed to respond to the appeal despite numerous attempts to remind the agency of its statutory responsibility to respond in a timely manner.

Additional Documents:


Cause of Action Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to enhance individual and economic liberty by limiting the power of the administrative state to make decisions that are contrary to freedom and prosperity by advocating for a transparent and accountable government.

Media Contact: Matt Frendewey, 


Cause of Action Institute Files FOIA Requests for Commerce’s Section 232 Auto-Tariff Report

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 19, 2019) – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking a copy of the Department of Commerce (Commerce) Secretary’s final report to the President regarding the Section 232 investigation into the national security impacts of the Administration’s proposed automobile tariffs. The Administration has recently stated that it will not make the report public and has no obligation to do so.  CoA Institute disagrees and filed FOIA requests so that the public can see the report.

“The public has a right to see the Commerce report that purports to justify the Administration’s escalating tariffs, which are nothing more than taxes on American consumers,” said CoA Institute Director of Investigations Kevin Schmidt. “A 25 percent tariff on imported cars and automobile parts will harm American consumers and businesses and is likely to provoke retaliation from our trade allies. Cause of Action Institute intends to use all avenues available to ensure that this report is released to the public, including litigation if necessary.”

The Section 232 National Security Investigation of Imports of Automobiles, Including Cars, SUVs, Vans and Light Trucks, and Automotive Parts will provide recommendations for the Administration’s proposal to impose a 25% tariff on imports of cars and car parts. CoA Institute sent requests to both the Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Industry and Security for a copy of this report.




Cause of Action Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to enhance individual and economic liberty by limiting the power of the administrative state to make decisions that are contrary to freedom and prosperity by advocating for a transparent and accountable government.

CoA Institute Sends Letter to Secretary Ross Requesting Public Confirmation of Controversial Fishery Regulation

The importance of an open and transparent government is rooted in the federal government’s ability to choose winners and losers, create barriers to economic freedom, and limit personal liberties. Family-owned fishing firms in New England recently had their economic freedom put at-risk when it was revealed that the government had secretly approved a proposal to impose new, and statutorily unauthorized, costs on their fishing operations. That’s why Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross yesterday, criticizing his office’s lack of transparency and inadequate analysis surrounding the controversial fishery management regulations.

In January, CoA Instituted published a previously unreported letter, which revealed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S Department of Commerce (Commerce) approved the New England Industry-Funded Monitoring Omnibus Amendment (Omnibus Amendment), but without providing any reasoned responses to public comments.  The approval also came in the midst of a second public comment period for implementing regulations. The Omnibus Amendment is estimated to impose new costs of up to $810-per-day on certain herring fishermen.  These costs, which will be used to fund a third-party monitoring scheme, would have  devastating economic consequences—especially for small and family-owned fishing operations.

Commerce’s failure to address the valid and pressing concerns raised by several interested parties in the first round of public comments, including questions about the statutory authorization for industry-funded monitoring raised by CoA Institute, is particularly egregious.  CoA Institute has repeatedly argued that the government lacks statutory authority to force commercial fishermen on the East Coast to pay for at-sea monitoring. The Secretary of Commerce was responsible for reviewing the Omnibus Amendment for compliance with applicable laws as well as considering public comments. The Secretary appears to have failed to do so in this case.  Government officials also are expected to conduct rulemaking in a manner that promotes accountability and transparency.  This is meant to protect the openness of the regulatory process. That transparency was seriously lacking in this instance.

CoA Institute’s letter requests that Secretary Ross (1) publicly confirm his approval of the Omnibus Amendment (2) and publish responses to the issues raised during the initial comment period. CoA Institute also requests that Commerce disapprove the implementing regulations for the Omnibus Amendment, which are expected to be finalized later this spring.  We look forward to a response addressing these concerns.

A copy of the letter to Secretary Ross can be found here. Additional background on this issue can be found here, here, and here.

The Brief – January

Cause of Action Institute published its January newsletter today. You can read the newsletter here and subscribe to our monthly newsletter here

Message from John

We hope everyone had a wonderful, safe New Year, and a great January. Cause of Action Institute continues to break down barriers that restrict individuals from exercising their rights and securing their economic freedom.

Recently, Cause of Action Institute highlighted deficiencies in a proposed rule to shift burdensome costs of at-sea monitoring to commercial fishermen — the rule and new costs could severely impact small business and family-owned fishing operations. A month later in a similar matter affecting fisherman, Cause of Action Institute caught the government ignoring the public comment period when creating new financial burdens on fishermen.

Our efforts on behalf of these small business and family-owned fishing operations is just one example of Cause of Action Institute’s commitment to fighting on behalf of average Americans who face unnecessary and overreaching burdens from the federal government.

We hope you’ll take a moment to take a look at what we have been up to in the new year as we continue to fight for a more free and open society for all Americans.

John J. Vecchione, president & CEO


Challenging the Auer Deference: Defending the Separations of Powers by Reigning in the Administrative State

In a 1997 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court created what’s known as Auer deference, greatly expanding the powers of federal agencies to interpret the very regulations they create, and receive the benefit of deference from federal courts when doing so. Auer up ends the separation of powers, a vital component of liberty, by allowing executive agencies to act as the legislative and judicial review of their own agency powers. Cause of Action Institute has joined with numerous other organizations to challenge Auer, by submitting an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Kisor v. Wilkie.

Such a blending of powers allowed by Auer, undermines the separation of powers as laid out by the Founders and within the Constitution, and should be overturned.

Additional Reading:


Media ContactMatt Frendewey, | 202-699-2018