FOI Daily Dose: Federal government stalls Bloomberg News request for travel budgets; Seattle Times reporter featured on SPJ blog wins public records award
Federal government stalls Bloomberg News request for travel budgets
Bloomberg News reporters are calling out the federal government for stalling numerous records requests, including a recent request for details about out-of-town trips taken by the heads of 57 major departments in fiscal year 2011.
Bloomerg cited special interest in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s travel budget since a State Department website called “Travels with the Secretary” shows she visited 112 countries and logged 956,733 miles. But the bill to taxpayers for her travels is not listed.
Clinton visited 46 countries during fiscal year 2011 that Bloomberg News requested records for. The news organization filed the request last year, and as of July 12, they’re still waiting for about one-fifth of the departments to respond, including five cabinet offices that have yet to fully comply.
Under Freedom of Information Act, agencies have 20 working days to provide data or offer a timeline for its delivery once a request is filed. The State Department said the request for Clinton’s information may be available next month. Other cabinet offices say it could take until September.
Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, said he doesn’t know what is taking the offices so long to collect the information Bloomberg News requested.
“These are exactly the kinds of records cabinet offices should have at their fingertips,” Blanton told Bloomberg News. “You should not even have to ask for these records. They should be online already.”
Bloomberg News said they filed the request last year as “a test of President Barack Obama’s pledge to run the most open government in history.”
“FOIA is the way for journalists and the American people to know how officials are spending taxpayer dollars, and these delays are an ugly blemish on claims of transparent government,” Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Bloomberg News.
Seattle Times reporter featured on SPJ blog wins public records award
Mike Carter, a criminal-justice reporter for the Seattle Times, earned a public records award for his 11-month pursuit of a police memo, the Times announced.
The Washington Coalition for Open Government presented Carter with a Key Award on June 12 to recognize his perseverance in the fight for a Seattle Police Department memo the department claimed did not exist. When Carter confronted the police after waiting 11 months for them to fulfill his records request, they admitted to withholding the memo and gave the Times a $20,000 settlement to avoid a lawsuit.
For more information about Mike Carter and his public records pursuit, see our June 13 blog post.
Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.