By Cortney O’Brien
More evidence has surfaced to prove that the Obama administration was anything but “the most transparent” White House in history, as the 44th president once boasted. A new report from the Associated Press reveals that his staff spent a record $36.2 million in legal fees last year defending their decision to not comply with Freedom of Information Act requests.
The figures suggest the White House had something to hide.
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 final 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.
Moreover, of those who did receive responses to their requests, the government provided censored documents or nothing at all 77 percent of the time.
During the Obama years, officials admitted that they conducted special political vetting processes for FOIA requests, yet argued it was “sound managerial practice.”
Here’s hoping the Trump administration will be a bit more compliant.