FOIA Favoritism at the FCC

What's the quickest way to get a FOIA request returned by the FCC? Try asking it for information about a political enemy of the Obama administration.

The Daily Caller reports that the Federal Communications Commission likely played a little game of favorites with Citiizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (also known as CREW) by releasing over 200 pages of documents about Rupert Murdoch in response to the group's FOIA request. 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — a group funded in part through the philanthropy of left-wing billionaire investor George Soros — obtained 233 pages of records on Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. media empire, from between Jan. 1, 2006 and July 15, 2011, according to documents available on CREW’s Scribd account.

The FCC’s response included correspondence about News Corp.’s acquisition of Dow Jones & Co., the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, and News Corp.’s transfer of its control of Direct TV to Liberty Media Corporation.

“The records consist of 176 pages of e-mail communications between parties outside of the agency and Commission personnel and 57 pages of Congressional correspondence,” said Michael S. Perko, chief of the FCC’s Media Bureau Office of Communication and Industry Information, in the agency’s response letter to CREW.

The Daily Caller previously reported that the agency denies approximately 46.8 percent of the Freedom of Information Act requests it receives, making it one of the more secretive outfits in federal government.

CREW’s request sought “any and all records … of any kind … regardless of format, medium, or physical characteristics” within that four and a half year timespan “referencing or pertaining to News Corp and/or Rupert Murdoch.”

The July 15, 2011 request, the organization said, was made in response to the U.K. phone hacking scandal that rocked Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire. On August 9, 2011 the cache was delivered.

Emphasis is mine, and meant to highlight just how amazing this is. CREW's request should have, under the Fed's own practices, been rejected. Why? Because it's incredibly broad.

Let me illustrate with an example: Last year, I submitted a FOIA request to the DEA asking for emails (just emails!) on a specific policy issue that were transmitted over a specific time period. Last week--nearly seven months after I filed my request--a FOIA officer with the agency called me and told me my request was too broad and asked me to narrow it by giving him the specific names of emailers. He very politely added that if I didn't narrow my search criteria, I would receive a rejection letter from the agency that I would then have to appeal. If my appeal did not contain a more specific request, I would have to sue. 

The fact that CREW was able to submit a request that basically said, "Give us everything you have on Rupert Murdoch," and then received that information in one month is absolutely amazing. It means the FCC either had a dossier ready to dump, or that it dedicated a team of FOIA officers (or political appointees) to satisfying this one request. 

(I can't speak for the motivations of the FCC, and I'm not saying that they should have taken longer. FOIA requests across the board should be handled much quicker than they currently are, and there's a lot of information that federal agencies only release in response to FOIA that should be publicly available.)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • R C Dean||

    a FOIA officer with the agency called me and told me my request was too broad and asked me to narrow it by giving him the specific names of emailers.

    How are you supposed to know who might have been emailing?

    And I would purely love to be able to do this when we get a discovery request.

    The double standard, it burns.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Next they'll ask him to give them the specific text in the body of the e-mail that he's looking for.

  • anon||

    "I can't seem to find the information you're looking for. Could you please tell me exactly what the email said and to whom it was addressed?"

  • tarran||

    You know, I really should be grateful to the Obama administration. His education initiatives and the silly implementations my son has experienced have driven my son into becoming a proto-libertarian without me having to say a word.

    The proto Massachusetts liberals in his class who yak that all opponents to Obama being driven by racism have led him to conclude that the MA liberals are devoid of any substantive arguments.

  • wareagle||

    the best defense against liberalism is often liberals' own words.

  • ||

    Unrelated, but your mention of MA reminded me of something. Friends of mine in New Hampshire are noticing lots more Massachusites in their area of the state, especially when it comes to the kids at the local schools. Any bets on how long it'll take those immigrants to mess NH up?

  • John Thacker||

    "Lots more?" Haven't New Hampshire Yankees been complaining about Massholes moving in since time immemorial? My God, how much more could there be?

  • ||

    They've personally noticed more and more, which has to mean something. I've never lived in New Hampshire, so I wouldn't know from personal experience, but it's bad news all the same.

  • db||

    The biggest mistake the Free State Project ever made was moving to a state directly adjacent to a liberal haven state. If your strategy is to dominate the political agenda with numbers of dedicated lovers of freedom, don't do it in a state with an unlimited supply of potential statist immigrants.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Directly adjacent to? Try "surrounded by".

  • Pro Libertate||

    They should've made it here, BP. We already have no income tax and we're not fucking frozen half the year.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Maybe they thought libertarians were afraid of hurricanes. Or 4 inch roaches.

    But yeah, other than the storms, the weather is nice here.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Florida: Crazy. Warm. Babealicious. Libertarian.

  • The Hammer||

    Where's "Here?" Should've been CO, NM or Montana. Preferably CO, for my convenience.

  • tarran||

    MA is in a decline. The host being nearly dead, the parasites are heading to a more fertile host.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Massachusites

    is that code for Masshole?

  • ||

    The proto Massachusetts liberals in his class who yak that all opponents to Obama being driven by racism have led him to conclude that the MA liberals are devoid of any substantive arguments.

    ----------------------

    Smart kid. Middle school?

  • tarran||

    He just finished fifth grade. Precocious as hell.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Make sure he carries a pocket dictionary, so he can show his classmates and teachers the entry for "racism".

  • Killazontherun||

    Not only is it racist, but by not supporting Obama you want America to fail. Why do you hate America?

  • ||

    Isnt Mark Lloyd, fellator of Hugo Chavez, still Chief Diversity Officer at the FCC?

    Why should this be any surprise at all?

    Speaking of bananna republic dictator tactics, Pelosi ( my god, what a hideous visage ) is on Fox as I type this proclaiming that Holder is being held in contempt by congress because the republicans are engaging in a nationwide scheme of voter suppression.

  • anon||

    Chief Diversity Officer

    Please tell me you're joking about this position's existence.

  • ||

  • anon||

    I am filled with concurrent awe and dread.

  • ||

    Yeah. People actually get paid to do that shit.

  • Killazontherun||

    Old soviet tactic. Make sure there is a Party guy in the work place so that everyone complies to the Party's rules.

  • wareagle||

    what is amazing, and for some reason unreported or ignored, is the sheer condescension in which Pelosi holds those she claims to represent. The specter of "voter suppression" usually means some evil scheme like requiring ID, the same thing people are asked to produce when buying alcohol, going to an R-rated movie, cashing a check, and so forth.

    What Pelosi and her fellow travelers are really saying is this: "we don't think minorities and poor folks are smart enough or capable enough of getting something as simple of a driver's license. That many own and drive cars is not ironic at all."

  • R C Dean||

    The specter of "voter suppression" usually means some evil scheme like requiring ID, the same thing people are asked to produce when buying alcohol, going to an R-rated movie, cashing a check, and so forth.

    Not to mention getting into Democrat fundraisers.

  • tarran||

    What Pelosi and her fellow travelers are really saying is this: "we don't think minorities and poor folks are smart enough or capable enough

    It is this precise mindset that makes progressivism inherently and inescapably racist/classist.

    There are rulers, and those who must be ruled for their own good. And naturally, the guy advocating for progressivism is going to be one of the rulers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If you don't require IDs, voter fraud is--

    a. Easier.
    b. Harder.
    c. The question doesn't provide enough information to allow for a meaningful answer.
    d. All of the above.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Well, if the Republicans stop non-citizens, felons, minors, and dead folks from voting, or stop Democrats from voting more than once, they're suppressing voters. She didn't say they were suppressing legal votes.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Because some states don't want illegals voting? Whatever one may think about U.S. immigration policy, I think we can agree that having noncitizens vote is a bad thing. Unless your party likes to bus in nonvoters to vote. Is that the Republicans?

  • anon||

    Whatever one may think about U.S. immigration policy, I think we can agree that having noncitizens vote is a bad thing

    Your error was assuming the other party involved in the discussion is capable of thinking.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Have the Democrats actually thought forward to what happens when a majority of Republicans truly believe that the entire system of voting is rigged?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement