Government Accountability

Whether a president is doing a good job, is not for the president or his cabinet to decide.  Unlike a corporation, which runs with a board of directors, and make decisions, it is the American people, through the election process, which keep the government accountable.  Good news pours out of government.  Bad news is hidden under the rug.  Or more correctly, buried within the agencies of government.

Governments like to err on the side of caution.  They have a particular point of view, consistent with their policies.  Their policies and the supporting rationale are rapidly disseminated by the media.   However, as new information comes in, showing inconsistencies or direct conflicts with what has been said, then release of this information may be delayed or withheld from the public, even with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

In doing research for my book (Florida Citrus Canker Epidemic: Pieces of a Puzzle, available on Amazon, yes this is plug to buy the book),  I discovered how frustratingly difficult it is, to obtain public documents as governments have learned all the tricks at avoiding the requirements of FOIA and other state laws, with the intent of making government more open.

The news organizations have  an advantage, because they can hire lawyers and challenge the government agencies in court.   The New York Times filed more FIOA requests than any other organization.  They filed 31 lawsuits when Obama was in office.  Fox News filed a total of 3 lawsuits when Obama was in office, and 2 lawsuits between election  and inauguration days.  So much for their “investigative journalism.”

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI),  takes second place.  So what is the CPI?  According to Wikipedia:

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) is an American nonprofit investigative journalism organization whose stated mission is “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first.” With over 50 staff members, CPI is one of the largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative centers in America. It won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

A link to their website is given in the links below.  They recently won 7 dateline awards, as given by the  Society of Professional Journalists.

Table 1. News Organizations Filing Three or More FOIA Lawsuits
Number of FOIA Suits Filed
News Organization Plaintiff Total Bush Obama
The New York Times Company 36 5 31
Center for Public Integrity 17 9 8
Associated Press 8 5 3
San Francisco Bay Guardian 6 1 5
Tax Analysts 6 4 2
Fox News Network, LLC 5 0 5*
Daily Caller News Foundation 4 0 4
Los Angeles Times Communicatio 4 3 1
Prison Legal News 4 2 2
Bloomberg LP 3 3 0
Detroit Free Press 3 2 1
SAE Productions, Inc. 3 2 1
* two suits were filed after Obama was elected, but just before he assumed office.

The above list does not include hundreds of lawsuits, filed by reporters and other organizations.  Two organization which have partisan missions are:  Judicial Watch (Conservative/ Republican) and Center for the Media and Democracy (CMD, Liberal/ Democrat).   Judicial Watch was extremely active during the Clinton email and Benghazi scandals.   Now it’s CMD turn, to uncover secrets held by the Trump administration.

Republicans better get used to the adage, “what goes around comes around.”  If they can make all sorts of accusations against Hillary Clinton based on her emails, so can Democrats use email conversations.     The February 2017 article in the  New York Times-  “The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry” is based on released emails from Oklahoma.   It reveals how Scott Pruitt fought EPA regulations, as Attorney General of Oklahoma and was well connected with oil industry executives and Republican campaign donors.

Please ignore for the next four years, the outlandish attacks on the media by Trump, particularly the printed media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.  We need dedicated correspondents, reporters, and the journalists that finally piece together a story.  Truth will not roll out of the White House in a neat little package and with the blessings of Trump.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

New York Times:  Think FOIA Is a Paper Tiger? The New York Times Gives It Some Bite

FOIA Project: News Reporters Drive Growth in Media FOIA Litigation

FOIA Project:  News Media Requests    (The more recent FOIA lawsuits are filed in the name of a reporter, but likely  with the backing of their organizations).

Judicial Watch

Center for the Media and Democracy (CMD)

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