Cause of Action Sues Commerce Department for Failing to Release Section 232 Uranium Report

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 10, 2019) – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) has stepped up its ongoing battle with the Department of Commerce (Commerce) by suing the agency for failing to respond to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking access to the agency’s final report to the President regarding its Section 232 investigation into the “Effect of Imports of Uranium on the National Security” and the Department of Defense’s response letter to that report. Learn More

Investigation Update: The VA continues to subject certain FOIA requests to “sensitive review,” but the agency is keeping records about the practice secret

Over the past year, Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) has been investigating the Department of Veterans Affairs for its continued politicization (here, here, and here) of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).  That politicization takes the form of “sensitive review,” which refers generally to the practice of giving certain FOIA requests extra scrutiny.  Sensitive review usually entails an additional layer of review or “consultation” with interested parties before potentially embarrassing or politically sensitive records are released to the public.  At its best, it almost always causes delay.  At its worst, it leads to intentionally inadequate searches, politicized document review, improper redaction, and incomplete disclosure. Learn More

The EPA bypassed public comment on its new FOIA regulations, which raises some important legal questions

The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has long struggled with the politicization and abuse of its Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) processes.  Indeed, as Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) has repeatedly argued, the agency has a “terrible track record for anti-transparency behavior”—from the weaponization of fee waivers and the use of undisclosed “alias” e-mail accounts, to the failure to preserve text messages and the creation of special “awareness review” procedures for politically sensitive FOIA requests.  Yet the EPA’s rather poor reputation plunged even further in late June 2019, when the agency published an unexpected direct final rule implementing various changes to its FOIA regulations. Learn More

CoA Institute Commends Bipartisan Group of Senators for Introducing FOIA Bill to Correct the Supreme Court’s Decision on Exemption 4

Washington, D.C. (July 24, 2019) – Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) commends Senators Grassley, Leahy, Cornyn, and Feinstein for introducing the Open and Responsive Government Act of 2019 (S. 2220), a bill that would correct the Supreme Court’s recent misinterpretation of Exemption 4 within the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).  The bill would clarify that the term “confidential” in Exemption 4 only protects information that, if disclosed, “would likely cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained.”  Last term, in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader, the U.S. Supreme overturned that long-settled interpretation of the term “confidential.”  The bipartisan bill would re-establish the previous status quo.

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CoA Institute Defeats IRS Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Access to Congressional Communications

Washington, D.C. (July 18, 2019) – U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson yesterday denied the Internal Revenue Service’s (“IRS”) motion to dismiss Cause of Action Institute’s (“CoA Institute”) Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) lawsuit over the agency’s refusal to produce records relating to its dealings with Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation (“JCT”).  To date, the IRS has refused to search for records potentially responsive to CoA Institute’s FOIA requests.  The agency instead has argued that all relevant records would categorically be “congressional records” outside the scope of disclosure permitted under the FOIA.  In its failed motion, the IRS claimed that the federal district court even lacked the authority—or subject-matter jurisdiction—to adjudicate CoA Institute’s well-pleaded claims in the first instance.

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Supreme Court Expands FOIA Exemption 4, Cramping Government Oversight and Marring Text

Washington, D.C. (June 24, 2019) – Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in FMI v. Argus Leader, a case considering the scope of Exemption 4 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which will impact all FOIA requesters including news media, individuals, and government transparency groups:

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Commerce Provides Poor Excuse in First Substantive Answer on Secrecy of 232 Auto Tariff Report

Washington, D.C. (June 19, 2019) – After nearly four months, Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) has finally received an explanation from the Department of Commerce (Commerce) that claims the 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 may constitute a presidential record. In this determination, which is in response to CoA Institute’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent litigation, Commerce states it is reviewing whether the report does in fact constitute a presidential record, which would remove it from the scope of the FOIA. It also claims that if the report ultimately is classified as an “agency record,” Commerce will still refuse to provide access to the report under the guise of presidential communications or deliberate process privileges.

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