Who’s trying to kill FOIA reform now? Bankers!

A close up picture of the Wall Street sign.
Wall Street. Photo credit: echiner1/Flickr

We’re getting word (from here, among various other places) that the widely supported FOIA Improvement Act — which is staring down the clock of death in the House — has inspired a flood of last-second lobbying by anonymous banking interests. Wait, what?

The bipartisan FOIA reform bill that a coalition of civil society and Hill allies (including Sunlight) have been laboring over and negotiating for months – and which passed the Senate unanimously in the nick of time this week – is now suffering under the misperceptions of bankers that don’t want open government to get anywhere near their interests.

Truth is, they are wrong. But even if they weren’t, they were asleep at the wheel. This language has been in the bill, without controversy, for many months. The presumption of openness that they’re worried about has been in this bill since June (“(8)(A)”).

That’s the same language that is supposed to be a law thanks to an executive order by President Obama. And just to assuage our well-moneyed, late-to-the-partiers, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., added report language that lulled these concerns to sleep in the Senate (where they were also brought up at the last second – that is, last week). That language is below.

As we said before, these are the last hours of breath for this bill, and we urge you to please reach out to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and let him know that FOIA reform matters. You can find contact info and email his office directly through his OpenCongress page, or call him up at (202) 225-6205. His Twitter handle is @SpeakerBoehner. Help us save FOIA reform before it’s too late.


Report language on Exemption 8 and the mistaken banker concerns:

Currently, financial regulators rely on Exemption 8, and other relevant exemptions in Section 552(b), to protect sensitive information received from regulated entities, or prepared in connection with the regulation of such entities, in fulfilling their goals of ensuring safety and soundness of the financial system, compliance with federal consumer financial law, and promoting fair, orderly, and efficient financial markets. Exemption 8 was intended by Congress, and has been interpreted by the courts, to be very broadly construed to ensure the security of financial institutions and to safeguard the relationship between the banks and their supervising agencies. The D.C. Circuit has gone so far as to state that in Exemption 8 Congress has provided “absolute protection regardless of the circumstances underlying the regulatory agency’s receipt or preparation of examination, operating or condition reports.” Nothing in this legislation shall be interpreted to compromise the stability of any financial institution or the financial system, disrupt the operation of financial markets or undermine consumer protection efforts due to the release of confidential information about individuals or information that a financial institution may have, or encourage the release of confidential information about individuals. This legislation is not intended to lessen the protection under Exemption 8 created by Congress and traditionally afforded by the courts.