Concealing the truth is expensive.
Keeping Americans in the dark, denying Freedom of Information Act requests… it costs a lot of money.
In just his last year in office, Barack Obama and his administration spent a record $36.2 million defending the refusal to turn over documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
It’s the second year in a row the Obama Administration set a record for times telling citizens, journalists and anyone else who asks that they can’t have what they’re looking for, the Associated Press reports.
And in more than one third of those cases – the highest rate in years – the administration was forced to admit it was wrong when challenged in court on their denial to release records.
In the last four years, lawsuits filed by news organizations under FOIA surged to record levels. The New York Times, the AP and the Center for Public Integrity were the most litigious. The AP has a case still pending about records the FBI has regarding a decision to impersonate an AP journalist during a criminal investigation.
Of the $36.2 million in legal costs fighting such lawsuits last year, the Justice Department accounted for $12 million, the Homeland Security Department for $6.3 million and the Pentagon for $4.8 million. The three departments accounted for more than half the government’s total records requests last year.
The figures reflect the struggles of the Obama administration during the 2016 election to meet President Barack Obama’s pledge that it was “the most transparent administration in history,” despite wide recognition of serious problems coping with requests under the information law. It received a record 788,769 requests for files last year and spent a record $478 million answering them and employed 4,263 full-time FOIA employees across more than 100 federal departments and agencies. That was higher by 142 such employees the previous year.
It’s unclear yet how transparent the Trump Administration will be with the press and others seeking information, but one thing is pretty sure: It won’t be as bad as Barack Obama’s record.
A spokesman for former President Obama did not immediately respond to an email request for comment late Monday. The White House under Obama routinely defended its efforts under the information law in recent years and said federal employees worked diligently on such requests for records.