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Tag Archive: Corporations

How to Actually Improve Public Access to Government Documents (Under the FOIA)

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When can a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request be worth millions of dollars? When it is made by an investment company hoping to gain information about potential stock purchases (and sales). A recent Wall Street Journal article details the use of FOIA requests by investment firms. These firms make document requests to ascertain potential corporate liabilities and successes, requesting, for example, documents detailing Food and Drug Administration inspections and customer complaints about consumer products and pharmaceuticals. To be clear, what the Wall Street Journal describes appears to be perfectly legal - just another form of research conducted by companies that are doing their due diligence before making large scale investments.

But it has touched a nerve within the open government community. Open government advocates argue that the investment firms are taking advantage of the FOIA in order to gain insider information that only benefits the firm and is never shared the public at large. It raises complex questions when a public interest law is used to create private gain, even though the FOIA originally accounted for commercial requesters.

Seeing potential gains in efficiency, accountability, and fairness, FOIA reformers see stories like this one as opportunities to propose new FOIA procedures to promote public access.

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What Eduardo Porter gets wrong about corporate money and the GOP

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If there is a “reluctance of corporations to spend on politics,” somebody forgot to tell the corporations. As far as I can tell, corporations are still spending ridiculous sums here in Washington. This surprising assertion comes from the New York Times’ Eduardo Porter, who wrote an article in today’s paper trying to puzzle through what would be a provocative question if the premise were true: “How did corporate America lose control of the Republican Party?” Porter’s thesis seems to be that corporations should have spent more money to shape the make-up of the Republican Party in Congress. If they had, they’d be better poised to get some action on immigration reform and infrastructure improvement. “Corporations’ reluctance to open their checkbooks,” Porter writes, “suggests an intriguing alternative explanation for the rise of Republicans who are willing to defy their will.” Let’s set a few things straight.

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