MuckRock emails (Federal Election Commission)

Emma Best filed this request with the Federal Election Commission of the United States of America.

It is a clone of this request.

Tracking #

2018-108

Multi Request MuckRock emails
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Emma Best


To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

Copies of all emails containing the terms "MuckRock", "Muck Rock" or "MuckRock.com", excluding emails sent to or from a MuckRock.com email address. Please include the complete email exchange for each email, including any emails that are being replied to as well as any subsequent replies.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities. I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through non-profits such as the Internet Archive and MuckRock, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance.

Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross- section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media.

Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category. As my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available, I request that fees be waived.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Emma Best

From: Federal Election Commission

Dear Mrs. Best:

This email acknowledges receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated May 29, 2018.

Please note that, depending upon the nature of your request, we may be able to respond to you more quickly if you are able to state your request more specifically or narrowly, either in terms of the scope of documents you have requested or by refining the time frame of your request. If you would like to discuss this option or if you have any questions, please contact the FOIA Requester Service Center at (202) 694-1650. Please include the following tracking number in all future correspondence regarding this matter – FOIA Request 2018-108.

Thank you for contacting the Federal Election Commission.

Sincerely,

Christopher Mealy

FOIA Requester Service Center

From: Federal Election Commission

June 4, 2018

VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL

MuckRock News

C/O Emma Best
requests@muckrock.com
Re: Your Freedom of Information Act Request to the Federal Election Commission (2018-108)

Dear Ms. Best:

This letter is regarding your request for information from the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), dated and received by the FEC's FOIA Requester Service Center on May 29, 2018. You requested copies of all emails containing the terms "Muckrock", "Muck Rock", or "Muckrock.com," but excluding emails sent to or from a MuckRock email address. I am writing you to clarify the date range of your request (e.g., "August 2017-the date of my request," or "January through June of 2016").

We are also hoping to clarify which offices or divisions within the FEC you would like us to search for documents within (e.g., the Public Disclosure and Media Relations Division, the Office of Inspector General, the FOIA Office, or commissioners' offices). If you need assistance identifying particular office or divisions, the FEC's Organizational Chart can be viewed at the following link on our website: https://transition.fec.gov/about/offices/offices.shtml. We currently do not have advanced capability to centrally search for documents agency-wide; therefore, if you wish for such a broad search, your request may be significantly delayed while we collect documents. If you are able to narrow your search to a specific department or area of our program, your search can be conducted more quickly.

You may reply to me to clarify your request via email at ksutphin@fec.gov<mailto:ksutphin@fec.gov> or contact me via phone at (202) 694-1557. If you have any questions or need help deciding how to narrow your request, please feel free to call me. Please note that pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii)(I), the period for the FEC to respond to your request will be tolled until we receive a response to this request for clarification.

Sincerely,

Katrina Sutphin
FOIA/PA Attorney

From: Federal Election Commission

June 12, 2018

MuckRock News

C/O Emma Best
requests@muckrock.com<mailto:requests@muckrock.com>

Re: Federal Election Commission Freedom of Information Act Request No. 2018-108

Dear Ms. Best,

According to our records, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) received a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from you on May 29, 2018. Specifically, you requested:

Copies of all emails containing the terms "MuckRock", "Muck Rock" or "MuckRock.com", excluding emails sent to or from a MuckRock.com email address. Please include the complete email exchange for each email, including any emails that are being replied to as well as any subsequent replies.

The FOIA requires that requests "reasonably describe" the records sought such that an agency employee familiar with the subject area of the request can locate the records with a reasonable amount of effort. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A). We have determined that your request does not adequately describe the records sought, and are therefore unable to process it at this time.

From: Emma Best

I am appealing the decision that the request was not reasonably described.

1. Courts have held that just such a request is reasonably described. See attached.
2. The FEC's initial correspondence confirmed that it was, merely that it would be time consuming but that it could be completed.
3. The FEC appears to be using Microsoft Exchange as your email server, which allows the search requested to be performed centrally, such as through the In-Place eDiscovery tool.
4. Per the Department of Justice, " the fact that a FOIA request is very broad or "burdensome" in its magnitude does not, in and of itself, entitle an agency to deny that request on the basis that it does not "reasonably describe" the records sought. The key factor is the ability of an agency's staff to reasonably ascertain exactly which records are being requested and then locate them." According to the government's own clearly spelled out standard, the request is reasonably described.

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