Leahy: FOIA Anniversary Time For Renewed Open Government Commitment

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, June 25, 2008) – Open government advocate Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged Congress today to renew efforts to improve government transparency and strengthen the nation’s open government laws in advance of the upcoming anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

July 4 will mark the 42nd anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Information Act, a law that continues to bring transparency to actions of the federal government at a time when excessive government secrecy has often hidden controversial government policies from public view.  Leahy, a long time supporter and proponent of FOIA, marked the anniversary of the nation’s primary open government law by calling for prompt action on legislation he introduced in March with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to require Congress to explicitly and publicly state whether it intends to create a FOIA exemption for any new legislation.  The OPEN FOIA Act is listed for consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a panel which Leahy chairs, at a business meeting on Thursday.

“As we reflect upon the celebration of another FOIA anniversary, we in Congress must also reaffirm our commitment to open and transparent government,” said Leahy.  “As I have said many times, open government is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue.  It is an American value and a virtue that all Americans hold dear.”

Under Leahy’s leadership, the Congress last year enacted the OPEN Government Act, which made the first substantive reforms to FOIA in over a decade.  That legislation also created the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), an independent office within the National Archives and Records Administration responsible for resolving inter-agency FOIA disputes.  Just a month after signing the OPEN Government Act into law, President Bush’s budget proposalsignaled the White House’s intention to move the functions of OGIS to the Department of Justice rather than the National Archives.  Last week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, of which Leahy is a senior member, rejected the President’s budget proposal to fund the Office in the Justice Department.

Leahy has pledged to work through the appropriations process to ensure OGIS is fully funded at the National Archives.


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