Rebeckah Adcock's external emails

Alexander Rony filed this request with the U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary of the United States of America.
Tracking #

2020-OSEC-06553-F

Est. Completion None
Status
No Responsive Documents

Communications

From: Alexander Rony

To Whom It May Concern:

I. Description of Records Sought

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act for Rebeckah Adcock's emails that were sent to or from email addresses with the domains .com or .org. Please include any attachments. Please search from August 1, 2019 to July 30, 2020. Ms. Adcock worked as Senior Advisor to the Secretary during this period.

II. Request for a Fee Waiver

I respectfully request that you waive all fees in connection with this request as provided by 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii). The Sierra Club is a national environmental nonprofit with no commercial interest in obtaining the requested information. Instead, our organization intends to analyze and disseminate the requested information free of charge so that the public can be better informed and meaningfully participate in protecting the nation's natural resources and public health.

The subject matter of the requested records is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government by disclosing with whom the USDA's Regulatory Reform Officer was communicating, and about which government regulations. Due to the broad scope of Executive Order 13777, these regulations can apply to virtually every issue that the USDA works on, impacting people's lives in a variety of ways. Ms. Adcock, who signed an ethics agreement not to work on items on which she previously lobbied, has been found to have emailed and met with her former employers (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/business/trump-regulations-usda-lobbyists.html) along with other private entities with deregulatory interests.

The Sierra Club and its supporters have demonstrated interest and expertise in the subject area, specifically the development of standards designed to limit pollution, safeguard public health, grow the sustainable agriculture economy, and conserve natural resources. In addition to our staff's formal recommendations, our supporters have filed millions of public comments to agencies related to regulations that are likely to be affected by the agency's regulatory reform efforts.

III. Media Requester Status

In addition to the public interest fee waiver, I ask to be properly categorized as a representative of the news media. The bulk of my professional duties at the Sierra Club entails planning and writing content about public policy, including composing mass communications to our followers, analyzing FOIA responses, and coordinating press outreach. Here are some examples that resulted from my work, including two articles related to Ms. Adcock's email communications:

https://sierraclub.org/planet/2017/04/hiring-freeze-prevented-epa-filling-hundreds-jobs
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/05/19/nearly-700-vacancies-at-cdc-because-of-trump-administration-hiring-freeze/
https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2020/08/heres-what-our-supporters-found-former-lobbyists-emails-usda
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/14/trump-agriculture-department-rebekah-adcock-dow

The Sierra Club has the ability and intention to disseminate the information it receives through this request. The information may be shared through emails to an audience reaching into the millions, Facebook and Twitter posts reaching tens of thousands of followers, articles on our often-visited website, and analysis provided to the media.

IV. Exempt Records

Should you decide to invoke a FOIA exemption with regard to any of the requested records, please include in your response letter sufficient information for an appeal, including:

1. Basic factual material about each withheld item, including the originator, date, length, general subject matter, and location of each item.
2. Explanations and justifications for denial, including the identification of the category within the governing statutory provision under which the document (or portion thereof) was withheld and a full explanation of how each exemption fits the withheld material.

If you determine that portions of a requested record are exempt from disclosure, please redact the exempt portions and provide the remainder of the record.

V. Record Delivery

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

Please produce the records on a rolling basis; at no point should the search for – or deliberation concerning – certain records delay the production of others that the agency has already retrieved and elected to produce.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your timely response.

Sincerely,
Alexander Rony
Sierra Club

From: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary

Dear Mr. Rony:

This email acknowledges receipt of your attached Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Departmental FOIA Office (DFO). Your request was received by this office on September 28, 2020.

The DFO is under the purview of the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and serves as the focal point for USDA’s FOIA program. It provides coordination and ensures agency-wide compliance with the FOIA. Additionally, the DFO processes requests and appeals on behalf of the Office of the Secretary (OSEC), the Under Secretaries, USDA’s staff offices, and the Research, Education and Economics and Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs mission areas.

The FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i), requires USDA to make a determination in response to a FOIA request within 20 business days from its date of receipt. In unusual circumstances, the Federal agency time limit may be extended by 10 business days as stated in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B). If your request seeks numerous records that will necessitate a wide-ranging search, including searches with components and possible consultations with components that have a substantial interest in the determination of this request, USDA will invoke a 10 business day extension for determination of your request. You have the option to narrow the scope of your request to limit the number of potentially responsive records.

Due to the increasing number of FOIA requests received by this office, we may encounter some delay in processing your request. Pursuant to USDA FOIA Regulations, Title 7 CFR §1.6(a), the USDA processes FOIA requests according to their order of receipt.

Provisions of the FOIA allow USDA to recover part of the cost of complying with your request. For purposes of fee assessment, you were categorized as a “all other” requester, pursuant to 7 CFR Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 1, Section (2)(b)(5)(i). For your review and information, a copy of the USDA FOIA Fee Schedule is attached. In accordance with 7 CFR Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 1, Section 3(b), your fees shall be waived where the amount of the fee is $25.00 or less. We have received your fee waiver request and a determination will be sent to you in a separate email.

A search will be conducted for records responsive to your request. If any responsive records are located, they will be reviewed for determination of releasability. Please be assured that a FOIA analyst will respond to your request as expeditiously as possible. We appreciate your patience as we proceed with your request.

Your request has been assigned FOIA Case No. 2020-OSEC-06553-F. Please refer to this case number in any future correspondence. If you have any questions regarding the processing of this request, please contact Bianca Kegler electronically at bianca.kegler@usda.gov<mailto:bianca.kegler@usda.gov> or USDAFOIA@usda.gov<mailto:USDAFOIA@usda.gov>. For additional information regarding USDA FOIA regulations and process, please refer to the information available on-line at www.dm.usda.gov/foia<http://www.dm.usda.gov/foia>. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you.

Sincerely,

USDA Departmental FOIA Office

Bianca Kegler, Esq.
FOIA Analyst
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the General Counsel
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4105
Washington, DC 20250
Bianca.Kegler@usda.gov<mailto:Bianca.Kegler@usda.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary

Dear Mr. Rony:

This email acknowledges receipt of your attached Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Departmental FOIA Office (DFO). Your request was received by this office on September 28, 2020.

The DFO is under the purview of the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and serves as the focal point for USDA’s FOIA program. It provides coordination and ensures agency-wide compliance with the FOIA. Additionally, the DFO processes requests and appeals on behalf of the Office of the Secretary (OSEC), the Under Secretaries, USDA’s staff offices, and the Research, Education and Economics and Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs mission areas.

The FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(i), requires USDA to make a determination in response to a FOIA request within 20 business days from its date of receipt. In unusual circumstances, the Federal agency time limit may be extended by 10 business days as stated in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B). If your request seeks numerous records that will necessitate a wide-ranging search, including searches with components and possible consultations with components that have a substantial interest in the determination of this request, USDA will invoke a 10 business day extension for determination of your request. You have the option to narrow the scope of your request to limit the number of potentially responsive records.

Due to the increasing number of FOIA requests received by this office, we may encounter some delay in processing your request. Pursuant to USDA FOIA Regulations, Title 7 CFR §1.6(a), the USDA processes FOIA requests according to their order of receipt.

Provisions of the FOIA allow USDA to recover part of the cost of complying with your request. For purposes of fee assessment, you were categorized as a “all other” requester, pursuant to 7 CFR Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 1, Section (2)(b)(5)(i). For your review and information, a copy of the USDA FOIA Fee Schedule is attached. In accordance with 7 CFR Appendix A to Subpart A of Part 1, Section 3(b), your fees shall be waived where the amount of the fee is $25.00 or less. We have received your fee waiver request and a determination will be sent to you in a separate email.

A search will be conducted for records responsive to your request. If any responsive records are located, they will be reviewed for determination of releasability. Please be assured that a FOIA analyst will respond to your request as expeditiously as possible. We appreciate your patience as we proceed with your request.

Your request has been assigned FOIA Case No. 2020-OSEC-06553-F. Please refer to this case number in any future correspondence. If you have any questions regarding the processing of this request, please contact Bianca Kegler electronically at bianca.kegler@usda.gov<mailto:bianca.kegler@usda.gov> or USDAFOIA@usda.gov<mailto:USDAFOIA@usda.gov>. For additional information regarding USDA FOIA regulations and process, please refer to the information available on-line at www.dm.usda.gov/foia<http://www.dm.usda.gov/foia>. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you.

Sincerely,

USDA Departmental FOIA Office

Bianca Kegler, Esq.
FOIA Analyst
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the General Counsel
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4105
Washington, DC 20250
Bianca.Kegler@usda.gov<mailto:Bianca.Kegler@usda.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary

Mr. Rony:

Request Not Reasonably Described

Your request did not specifically identify the records which you are seeking. Records must be described in reasonably sufficient detail to enable government employees who are familiar with the
subject area to locate records without placing an unreasonable burden upon the agency. See 7 C.F.R.§ 1.5(b). Where possible, a requester should supply specific information regarding dates, titles,
names of individuals, names of offices, and name of agencies or organizations that may help identify the records. The FOIA does not require an agency to create new records, answer questions posed by requesters, or attempt to interpret a request that does not identify specific records.

Here, the request fails to reasonably describe the records sought, in the following manner:

* You request seeks Rebeckah Adcock's emails that were sent to or from email addresses with the domains .com or .org. The two domains referenced are very common and do not specify a subject matter. Please provide a subject matter or the names of an individual or organization as opposed to .com and .org.

If you have any questions or concerns I am happy to schedule a call to discuss. Please provide your contact number and the best time to reach you. Thank you.

From: Alexander Rony

Dear Ms. Kegler,

In your email on September 28, you claimed that my FOIA request (Case No. 2020-OSEC-06553-F) "did not specifically identify the records" that I am seeking, and that "a requester should supply specific information regarding dates, titles, names of individuals, names of offices, and name of agencies or organizations that may help identify the records. The FOIA does not require an agency to create new records, answer questions posed by requesters, or attempt to interpret a request that does not identify specific records."

I am requesting existing records, not new ones to be created or questions to be answered. The records I requested were specified based on:

1. Type: Email
2. Agency: US Department of Agriculture
3. Office: Office of the Secretary
4. Individual: Rebeckah Adcock
5. Recipients: Email addresses ending in .com or .org
6. Dates: August 1, 2019 to July 30, 2020

Given all these details, I believe I have clearly satisfied the requirements under the Freedom of Information Act in describing the specific records that I am requesting in a way that allows your team to conduct an effective search.

Indeed, your department has capably responded to a similar FOIA request last year (#2019-DA-05664-F), in which I requested "Rebeckah Adcock's emails that were sent to or from email addresses with the domains .com or .org" from July 28, 2017 to the date the request was processed (sometime after the July 16, 2019 submission date). Your department offered and I accepted records responding to FOIA request #2018-OSEC-05938-F (see https://www.americanoversight.org/document/foia-to-usda-seeking-rebeckah-adcocks-communications-to-external-entities), which sought "All email communications sent by Rebeckah Adcock to external entities or individuals with email addresses ending in .org, .com or .net" from April 1 to November 15, 2017.

My organization and I have requested and received far broader requests, including records that spanned ALL emails from multiple individuals with lengthier date ranges. In many of these occasions, the agency provided interim responses, releasing the records on a rolling basis.

Furthermore, I should be properly categorized as a media requester. I have published free and public analyses of Department of Agriculture staff emails and worked with reporters to further share relevant insights (see https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2020/08/heres-what-our-supporters-found-former-lobbyists-emails-usda and https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jan/14/trump-agriculture-department-rebekah-adcock-dow). If necessary, I may appeal this determination.

To reduce the scope of this request, you may limit the records to emails that were sent by Ms. Adcock to email addresses ending in .com or .org, including the rest of the email chain contained therein. This will exclude emails sent to Ms. Adcock, unless those were part of an email chain to which she responded.

Thank you for your care for this FOIA request. Please let me know if you need additional clarification.

Regards,
Alexander Rony
Sierra Club

From: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary

Good afternoon Mr. Rony,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with Ms. Kegler and I in regard to the above-referenced FOIA requests. The purpose of this email is to memorialize the content of our conversation and to ensure that we accurately understood the modifications to your requests. Please see a summary of our conversation below:

On October 29, 2020, the Departmental FOIA Office (DFO) contacted you, via phone.

As a result of this conversation, you have agreed to:

* Exclude mass media/news emails;
* Provide more search terms for the electronic search;
* Narrow the timeframe of each request; and
* Waive attachments.

In the event that you have a future interest in any of the attachments in the record sets provided, you may submit a follow-up request to either Ms. Kegler or me for that information directly.

Please let me know if you do not think this is an accurate description of what we discussed so we can follow up. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact either Ms. Kegler or myself.

Best regards,

[cid:image001.png@01D585BE.4A6C9C50]
Melanie Enciso
FOIA Analyst - Contractor
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the General Counsel
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4105
Washington, DC 20250
☎ (202) 694-5982 (Telework)
Melanie.Enciso@USDA.gov<mailto:Melanie.Enciso@USDA.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary

Good afternoon Mr. Rony,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with Ms. Kegler and I in regard to the above-referenced FOIA requests. The purpose of this email is to memorialize the content of our conversation and to ensure that we accurately understood the modifications to your requests. Please see a summary of our conversation below:

On October 29, 2020, the Departmental FOIA Office (DFO) contacted you, via phone.

As a result of this conversation, you have agreed to:

* Exclude mass media/news emails;
* Provide more search terms for the electronic search;
* Narrow the timeframe of each request; and
* Waive attachments.

In the event that you have a future interest in any of the attachments in the record sets provided, you may submit a follow-up request to either Ms. Kegler or me for that information directly.

Please let me know if you do not think this is an accurate description of what we discussed so we can follow up. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact either Ms. Kegler or myself.

Best regards,

[cid:image001.png@01D585BE.4A6C9C50]
Melanie Enciso
FOIA Analyst - Contractor
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the General Counsel
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4105
Washington, DC 20250
☎ (202) 694-5982 (Telework)
Melanie.Enciso@USDA.gov<mailto:Melanie.Enciso@USDA.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

From: Alexander Rony

Ms. Enciso and Ms. Kegler,

Yes, I am happy to exclude mass media/news emails from this request, taking this to mean items like e-newsletter subscriptions and news clips that are widely distributed. I am also fine with waiving attachments for now, with your note that I can request those later with the file names provided in your response.

In order to cut down on the amount of responsive records, I would like to amend my request to emails that were sent by Ms. Adcock to email addresses ending in .com or .org that include any of the following search terms: chlorpyrifos, climate, dicamba, emission, glyphosate, herbicide, insecticide, pesticide, pollution, or warming. I would also like to receive any emails sent to or from Ms. Adcock from the following email domains: bayer.com, cgagroup.com, corteva.com, croplifeamerica.org, and fb.org. I would like to keep the timeframe of August 1, 2019 to July 30, 2020 as is for this request.

Please let me know if this is sufficient to begin your search and review process.

Thank you,
Alexander

From: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary

Good Afternoon:

Please see the attached final response for the above referenced FOIA Case. Please be advised that FOIA Case number 2020-OSEC-06529-F has returned results and we will provide a final response with responsive documents once the review is complete. If you have any questions or concerns please contact me via email at bianca.kegler@usda.gov<mailto:bianca.kegler@usda.gov>. Thank you. Have a safe and enjoyable day.

Bianca Kegler, Esq.
FOIA Analyst
Departmental FOIA Office
Office of the General Counsel
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4105
Washington, DC 20250
Bianca.Kegler@usda.gov<mailto:Bianca.Kegler@usda.gov>

This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

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