Cause of Action Institute sues Trump White House over OMB’s failure to support transparency

Michael J. “Mick” Mulvaney (CPAC photo b y Greg Skidmore)

The Washington-based legal watchdog Cause of Action Institute filed a federal lawsuit Thursday demanding the White House Office of Management and Budget, run by former South Carolina congressman John M. “Mick” Mulvaney, complete and enact rules to promote public disclosure of agency records.

James Valvo, CoA Institute counsel and senior policy advisor, said President Donald J. Trump and his OMB do not act as though they have any plan to finalize rules and update the Freedom of Information Request fee schedule to bring the rules in line with legislation and judicial rulings.

“This lawsuit is a great opportunity for the Trump administration to show its leadership on transparency issues,” Valvo said.

“FOIA requesters are often deterred due to high costs agencies charge to produce records,” he said.

“In recent years, the courts have clarified that many groups beyond traditional journalists are now eligible for news media fee waivers,” he said. “Updating OMB’s FOIA guidance to reflect this broad definition is critical.”

The lawsuit is made up of two petitions. The first requests the OMB align the FOIA fees in current law and the second requests the Trump administration follow the example of previous administrations with transparency with earmarks requests from federal agencies of the executive branch.

“The FOIA law requires OMB to establish these guidelines and requires every agencies’ fee rules to conform to OMB’s guidance,” Valvo said. “The FOIA Advisory Committee and the Archivist of the United States have also recommended that OMB update this guidance.”

Cause of Action’s second petition is based on a continuum of executive orders that began with President George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13457, he said. “The Trump administration has yet to address this issue.”

Read the lawsuit here.