Coin for Coins: Cause of Action Demands Agencies Reveal Wasteful Spending on Commemorative Items

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CoA Asks House & Senate Ethics to Investigate Staffer Insider Trading

On February 14, 2012, Cause of Action submitted a letter to both the House and Senate Ethics Committees requesting an investigation into Congressional staff actions that might be deemed insider trading.

You can see the letter here.


CoA Sues White House for Failing to Disclose Documents on Administrative Earmarks


 Management and Budget Office Remains Silent On Potential Coordination Between Congress and Federal Agencies On Pet Projects

WASHINGTON – Cause of Action filed suit Wednesday against the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) citing the OMB’s continued failure to produce documents regarding executive branch agencies’ use of administrative earmarks. Following a request under the Freedom of Information Act for documents relating to the cooperation of Congress and federal agencies on pet projects, the OMB has yet to comply with its FOIA obligations, prompting the government accountability group Cause of Action to file suit.


“By continuing to remain silent, the OMB is precluding American taxpayers from knowing the truth,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action. “The time for playing shell games with administrative earmarks has come to an end.”


After the House and Senate both embraced moratoriums on legislative earmarks, Cause of Action’s investigators saw an alarming potential for violations by Congress and these unchecked federal agencies. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) has stated that lawmakers are “convincing Obama administration officials to fund their pet projects,” and confirmed that “appropriators are going to be okay because we know people in agencies.”  By circumventing the earmark ban and channeling recommendations for pet projects through federal agencies, administrative earmarks have, until now, gone unchecked.


While the Obama Administration has iterated its support of the earmark ban, with the President himself stating in the State of the Union Address that if a bill came to his desk “with earmarks inside,” he will veto it, concerns remain over this avenue of agency grants achieving the same ends as legislative earmarks.  Just last month when confronted with a report from The Heritage Foundation showing how key legislative votes coincided with spikes in federal agency grants to Democratic districts, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed that, “the president’s opposition to earmarks is well known.”


“The administration cannot have it both ways,” continued Epstein.  “Either it is opposed to earmarks or it is allowing them through new means, and the public has a right to know which is true.”


About Cause of Action:

Cause of Action is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that uses public advocacy and legal reform tools to ensure greater transparency in government, protect taxpayer interests and promote economic freedom. For more information, visit


See the full complaint here: 7 March 2012 Suit against OMB re Administrative Earmarks FOIA

CoA Files Petition on Behalf of HARDI Against the Department of Energy

Cause of Action Files Petition on Behalf of HARDI Against Department of Energy

DOE Oversteps Its Rule-making Bounds Causing Financial Consequences for Heating and Air Businesses and Customers

WASHINGTON – Cause of Action filed a petition on January 20 in the U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of the Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) in response to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) abuse of the regulatory process and overreach of authority which resulted in a rogue decision to impose unreasonable energy efficiency standards on distributors, installers, and users of residential heating and cooling products in the United States.

Acting outside of its purview, the DOE not only ignored concerns from HARDI about these rule changes, but sidestepped the proper established rule-making procedures, instead choosing to dictate a rule without regard for its serious financial consequences.

Cause of Action, a non-partisan organization dedicated to attacking waste, fraud, mismanagement and corruption in the federal government, took on this issue on behalf of HARDI out of recognition of the abuse of power being demonstrated by the DOE, and the potential precedent this could set for federal agencies.

“The Department of Energy is turning a deaf ear toward American businesses and choosing to enact rules with no regard for proper procedure,” said Dan Epstein, Executive Director of Cause of Action. “Cause of Action chose to intervene on behalf of HARDI and the thousands of Americans they represent against this act of government abuse of power.  We urge the Court of Appeals to examine the unprecedented harm the Department of Energy is enacting on businesses and consumers around the country, and ask them to rein in this agency.”

For HARDI, their actions and opposition to the DOE on this issue have been evident since 2008, yet the DOE consistently ignored them.

“For years HARDI members have been discussing regional standards, then the consensus agreement, and now the potential impact of the Department of Energy’s direct final rule on our industry,” said HARDI President, Bud Mingledorff.  “Over the last several weeks alone, four individual votes were cast among varying levels of HARDI’s membership leaders, each of whom unanimously determined joining this litigation was the right thing to do.”

HARDI joins the American Public Gas Association (APGA) who has previously filed a petition on the matter with the Court of Appeals.

For more information or to speak with Jon Melchi, Director of Government Affairs of HARDI, or Dan Epstein, Executive Director of Cause of Action, contact Mary Beth Hutchins, 202-587-5880,

About HARDI:

Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) represents more than 460 wholesale companies and 300 manufacturing associates as well as nearly 125 manufacturer representatives. HARDI members represent an estimated 85 percent of the dollar value of the HVACR products sold through distribution.

About Cause of Action:

Cause of Action is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that uses public advocacy and legal reform tools to ensure greater transparency in government, protect taxpayer interests and promote economic freedom. For more information, visit


To see the motion to intervene filed by Cause of Action, click here.






CoA Asks National Archives to Release FCIC Records

Potential Conflicts of Interest Abound Between FCIC Staff and Outside Entities Involved in Suing Banks Targeted by FCIC

Cause of Action sent a Freedom of Information Act Request to the National Archives seeking the release of records it maintains from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the body tasked with investigating the causes of the 2008 financial crisis.  Prior to the release of the Commisssion’s report, U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) raised questions concerning the potential conflicts of interest that existed between Commission staff and several outside entities involved in suing banks targeted by FCIC.  Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) recently released a report finding that several of the decisions of the FCIC may have been politically motivated.

Read CoA’s request here.

Did You Know You Paid To Lobby For More Taxes?

Cause of Action Investigates

Cause of Action has discovered that Stimulus grants have been improperly used to lobby for soda taxes and smoke-free ordinances. The grant program, titled Communities Putting Prevention to Work, is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and was designed to help state and local governments educate citizens on preventing obesity and excessive tobacco use. However, documents reveal that these grants have been used to persuade state and local representatives to vote in favor of soda taxes and anti-smoking laws.

Use of discretionary grants for lobbying is prohibited by federal law. Because of the gravity of the abuse, Freedom Through Justice has requested, in writing, that the offices of the Inspector General of Health and Human Services and the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board open a full investigation into which grantees have used stimulus funds to engage in improper lobbying.

Regarding these violations, Executive Director Dan Epstein stated, “We hope that their offices will treat this revelation with the seriousness it deserves. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was intended to boost jobs and get the economy working again, not fill the pockets of well-connected lobbyists in the name of nanny-state politics.”

Cause of Action will continue to investigate how and when federal funds were used to lobby for taxes most Americans oppose.

COA Probes White House Political Activities

Sends FOIAs to Office of Management and Budget, Office of Governmental Ethics, Office of Special Counsel, and U.S. Navy

On September 23, 2011, Cause of Action sent FOIA requests to the OMB, OGE, OSC, and U.S. Navy seeking information about White House officials’ participation in political events.

Upon taking office, President Obama promptly signed Executive Order 13490, requiring every appointee in every executive agency to sign an ethics pledge concerning their communications with lobbyists or participation on matters related to their prior lobbying activities.[1]  The Executive Order allowed certain employees to be granted waivers from the order based on “exigent circumstances relating to national security or to the economy.” On April 22, 2010, the Office of Government Ethics (“OGE”) issued a memorandum finding “several situations in which ethics officials issued waivers . . . after employees acted in particular matters from which they should have been recused, or otherwise engaged in conduct that was prohibited.”[2]  Further, CoA questioned how officials at the Department of Education, Department of Labor, and the Peace Corps,[3] qualified for waivers based on “exigent circumstances relating to national security or to the economy.”

CoA also pointed out that recent news reports suggested that federal funds and property may have been used for political purposes despite the Hatch Act.  For instance, the New York Times reported that the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) used the White House Blue Room to hold a campaign fundraiser[4] and that, while President Obama attended the fundraiser,[5] the meeting did not appear on his public schedule.[6]  According to a Politico report, all thirty guests were donors to President Obama’s 2008 campaign.[7]  Further, according to a New York Times article, the DNC organized and sponsored the event.[8]  The reports of the DNC meeting at the White House spurred congressional investigations, led by the  Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at the U.S. House of Representatives.[9]  Committee Chairman Darrell Issa noted that the meeting’s non-appearance on the President’s calendar “call[ed] into question its official nature.”[10]  According to one anonymous attendee, “It was policy-focused, but everyone knew why they were there.”[11]

Finally, CoA noted that the White House has claimed that the Office of Administration White House Counsel’s office is not an agency for FOIA purposes.[12]  The Office of Government Ethics, however, identifies K. Colleen Wallace as the Designated Agency Ethics Official for the White House Office of Administration/Executive Office of the President.[13]  Thus, it would appear that the White House does not consider itself an agency for FOIA purposes but does consider itself an agency for ethics purposes.

In its FOIA request, CoA sought information from the OMB, OGE, and OSC about their efforts (if any) to enforce the Hatch Act and Executive Order as well as information regarding their definition of agency.  CoA also sought information from the U.S. Navy, who manages the White House cafeteria, regarding the White House/DNC event.  CoA wrote that “[t]he American people have a right to know the Administration is enforcing its own ethics rules and complying with the Hatch Act.”  Further, “[t]he Freedom Through Justice Foundation is concerned that taxpayer funds, as well as the White House itself, may have been used for prohibited political purposes.”

Cause of Action is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest firm that uses public policy and legal reform strategies to ensure greater transparency in government, protect taxpayer interests and promote social and economic freedoms.  Follow CoA on Twitter (@TheCauseofAction) or Facebook (

Document Productions

OMB(May 5, 2012)


[1] Exec. Order No. 13,490, 74 C.F.R. 4673 (2009).
[2] Don W. Fox, Memorandum to Designated Agency Ethics Officials, Re: Guidance on Waivers Under 18 U.S.C. § 208(b), Authorizations Under 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(d), and Waivers of Requirements under Agency Supplemental Regulations, U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Apr. 22, 2010, available at
[3] The Administration provided waivers to the Executive Order to Joseph Main (Department of Labor), Margot Rogers (Department of Education), James Shelton (Department of Education), Naomi Walker (Department of Labor), and Aaron Williams (Peace Corps).  See Report on Executive Order 13490, Ethics Branch Commitments by Executive Personnel, Mar. 31, 2010, available at
[4] Nicholas Confessore, Obama Seeks to Win Back Wall St. Cash, N.Y. Times, June 12, 2011, available at  (“The event, organized by the Democratic National Committee, kicked off an aggressive push by Mr. Obama to win back the allegiance of one of his most vital sources of campaign cash”).
[5] Id.
[6] Josh Gerstein, Carney defends Obama meeting Wall Street donors at White House, Politico, June 14, 2011, available at
[7] Josh Gerstein, All at DNC Blue Room meeting with Obama were donors, Politico, June 26, 2011,  available at
[8] Nicolas Confessore, Obama Seeks to Win Back Wall St. Crash, N.Y. Times, June 12, 2011 available at
[9] Seee.g., Josh Gerstein and Jake Sherman, Issa seeks DNC records of White House meeting, Politico, July 13, 2011, available at
[10] Letter from Chairman Darrell Issa to Kathryn Ruemmler, July 11, 2011,
[11] Josh Gerstein, Donor meeting at White House draws fire, Politico, June 20, 2011, available at
[12] The White House, Office of Administration – FOIA,
[13] Office of Governmental Ethics, Designated Agency Ethics Officials List, Aug. 12, 2011, available at,-2011).