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Senators Seek Cost Of FOIA Suits

A pair of powerful senators are trying to find out whether the government is reflexively withholding information from journalists and others seeking it under Freedom of Information Act requests and what the costs to taxpayers of the approach is.

In a letter to the Comptroller General, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member and former chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) requested a Government Accountability Office report on the tax dollars spent on lawsuits in which the government is found to have wrongly withheld information in FOIA requests.

The request stems from a Judiciary Committee hearing at which some witnesses said the government's default position is to deny requests until sued, cases the government loses almost a third of the time (according to the AP)—and that is when the party denied the information takes the time and expense to sue.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.