Center for Effective Government Applauds Senate Legislation to Strengthen Freedom of Information Act

-For Immediate Release-
June 24, 2014

Contact: Brian Gumm, 202-683-4812,

Center for Effective Government Applauds Senate Legislation to
Strengthen Freedom of Information Act

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2014—Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill would significantly improve access to public information. The Center for Effective Government applauds the work done to develop this legislation and urges the Senate to quickly pass the bill.

"The FOIA Improvement Act is an important bill that would make our government more transparent," said Sean Moulton, Director of Open Government Policy at the Center for Effective Government. "Since its original passage nearly 50 years ago, FOIA has been a cornerstone of the public's right to know, but we have also struggled to implement the law to its fullest extent."

The FOIA Improvement Act includes many of the critical amendments that are part of H.R. 1211, the FOIA reform bill that the House passed in February. This legislation builds on reforms implemented by the Obama administration to address long-standing problems in FOIA. It would:

  • Direct agencies to post more information online;

  • Raise the standards for applying FOIA's exemptions, making it harder for agencies to withhold information from the public;

  • Provide more support and independence for the Office of Government Information Services (the FOIA ombudsman); and

  • Require agencies to update their outdated FOIA regulations in order to incorporate revisions to the law.

The Senate legislation would narrow agencies' ability to withhold records about government operations under an exemption that restricts access to privileged documents, FOIA’s Exemption 5, which has become widely overused to withhold information about government activities from the public. Open government advocates have consistently named this reform a top priority for opening up government information to the American people.

Moulton concluded, "The FOIA Improvement Act would modernize the main law that gives Americans access to public information. By opening up government decision making to review by citizens, it increases accountability and strengthens our democracy."

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The Center for Effective Government is dedicated to building an open, accountable government that advances the priorities defined by an informed citizenry. Find the Center for Effective Government on Facebook and Twitter.

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