FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Geoff Holtzman, 703-405-3511, email@example.com
Cause of Action Challenges FTC in Court for Obstructing Transparency
Agency Threatens the Integrity of FOIA, Conduct Part of a Larger Pattern
WASHINGTON – Cause of Action (CoA), a government oversight group, today will argue before the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) improperly denied CoA’s request to be treated as a news media organization and for fee waivers under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the Daily Caller News Foundation, among others, filed a “friend of court” brief in support of CoA.
Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein said: “This Administration pledged openness and transparency, yet FTC has done the reverse. President Obama has said regarding FOIA that ‘democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency.’ But by obstructing FOIA disclosure and by playing games with media status and fee waivers to reward friends and to punish critics, FTC has crippled transparency and obstructed accountability.”
“FTC’s desire to chill criticism appears to explain what occurred here. Upholding FTC’s ‘weaponization’ of FOIA will empower agencies to selectively define what is and isn’t ‘media’, thereby blocking transparency and significantly reducing the federal government’s accountability to all Americans.”
CoA filed three separate FOIA requests between 2011 and 2012 for information on FTC regulation of social media authors and bloggers. CoA advised FTC this information was for an article and investigative report because blogger regulations “justify close scrutiny.” FTC denied CoA information access, news media requestor status and fee waivers. At the same time, FTC granted fee waivers to the AFL-CIO, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Marin Institute. According to Mr. Epstein, “FTC’s desire to chill criticism appears to explain what occurred here.”
FTC’s conduct reflects a larger pattern of government games with FOIA. For example, in 2009, the White House Counsel required all government agencies to submit FOIA disclosures involving “White House equities” for political pre-review. In 2013, a study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency granted fee waivers to politically favored groups in 75 out of 82 cases, but denied 14 of 15 requests for fee waivers by Agency critics during the same period of time. In 2014, AP’s Washington Bureau Chief said FOIA “is under siege” and that “Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees.”
To learn more about Cause of Action’s work on this case, please click here.
WHAT: Arguments in Cause of Action v. Federal Trade Commission
WHERE: United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia
WHEN: TODAY, January 13, 2015 at 9:30 am
To schedule an interview with Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein, contact Geoff Holtzman at firstname.lastname@example.org