Judicial Watch • Obama Cabinet Biggest Violator of Public Records Laws

Obama Cabinet Biggest Violator of Public Records Laws

Obama Cabinet Biggest Violator of Public Records Laws

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

As President Obama completes his first term, he has failed miserably to deliver on his promise of being the “most transparent administration ever,” and cabinet-level agencies are among the worst offenders in violating public records laws.

Nineteen of 20 presidential cabinet-level agencies blew off the law requiring disclosure of public information, according to an analysis conducted by a major news syndicate. What are they mostly withholding from American taxpayers? The cost of travel by top officials, which is supposed to be public information. Other federal agencies did the same, with only 8 of a total of 57 meeting the 20-day window required by the federal law known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

FOIA is a valuable tool in Judicial Watch’s work and we too see it violated consistently. To be fair, it happens in every administration—both Democrat and Republican—and JW regularly must go to court to obtain public records that should be furnished without the need for litigation. Obama promised this would all change, that there would be a “new era of open government” when he moved into the White House.

It hasn’t materialized. A former longtime director at the Department of Justice (DOJ) office that monitors the government’s FOIA compliance, put is simply in the news story; “When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk.’”

In the news agency probe, the administration failed to provide records for the taxpayer-funded travel expenses of cabinet secretaries and top officials of major departments. This includes heads of agencies that publicize their events in the media, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Requests for the travel costs of other cabinet officials—including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson—have also been blown off.

This is just a snippet of the stonewalling, which is nothing new since the administration has repeatedly violated transparency laws throughout its tenure. It even built additional hurdles for the most basic FOIA requests. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton offered a long list of examples during congressional testimony last year. Additionally, on major transparency issues, the Obama administration has consistently come down on the side of secrecy.

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