Cause of Action Institute signed a coalition letter yesterday that urged Jeb Hensarling, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, to rescind his recent direction to the Department of Treasury and other agencies to treat all records exchanged with the committee as “congressional records” not subject to FOIA, i.e. the Freedom of Information Act.

As I outlined in a recent op-ed published in The Hill, the mere fact that an agency possesses a record that relates to Congress, was created by Congress, or was transmitted to Congress, does not, by itself, render it a “congressional record.”  The law instead requires that Congress manifest clear intent to maintain control over specific records to keep them out of reach of the FOIA.

Chairman Hensarling’s letter employs sweeping, generalized language in an ineffective yet blatant attempt to frustrate public access to records of Congress’s dealings with the Executive Branch.  As the coalition letter explains, such “assertions improperly restrict the ability of the public to use FOIA” and indicate a dangerous departure from a commitment to transparency and good government.

Ryan Mulvey is Counsel at Cause of Action Institute.