Today, Cause of Action Institute filed a petition for rulemaking with the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”), urging it to update its obsolete guidance document that federal agencies rely on when making FOIA fee determinations.  The petition seeks to implement Cause of Action Institute’s landmark legal win in Cause of Action v. Federal Trade Commission where the D.C. Circuit ruled OMB’s guidance conflicts with the FOIA statute.


In 1986, Congress passed, and President Reagan signed into law, the Freedom of Information Reform Act of 1986.  Section 1803 of the Act directed OMB to provide a uniform schedule of fees for all federal agencies and guidelines for how to apply that schedule.  On March 28, 1987, OMB finalized those guidelines.  Although Congress has amended the FOIA several times since 1986, OMB has never updated the guidance.

The failure by OMB to update its guidelines has resulted in costly, time-consuming litigation between agencies and requestors.  For example, in 2011 and 2012, CoA Institute sent a series of FOIA requests to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) requesting access to records, to be classified as a representative of the news media, and for a public interest fee waiver.  The FTC refused the CoA Institute requests for fee classification and waiver by relying on its outdated FOIA fee regulations, which in turn relied on the outdated OMB guidance.  After the district court refused to apply the statutory standard, CoA Institute appealed the case to the D.C. Circuit, which ruled that many of the regulatory and judicial standards that had built up over time were in conflict with the statute as amended by the Open Government Act of 2007.