In 2017, FOIA requests contributed valuable oversight to the Trump administration. If you’re wondering where to start this new year, imitating successful requests is an easy way to get the ball rolling. 2017 also yielded many repositories of calendars, travel records, ethics pledges, and other documents that you can mine for FOIA request ideas. For the first week of 2018, we rounded up resources that can springboard your efforts to FOIA the Trump administration.
This year, hold the Trump administration accountable by filing a records request of your own with the agency, following MuckRock’s “FOIA the Trump Administration” project, and joining our Slack channel to share ideas and get help with your requests. If you have a Trump administration related FOIA you would like us to highlight, share it over email, Twitter, or Facebook and we may include them in the next roundup.
Travel records and official calendars
Some of the most impactful reporting of the Trump administration in 2018 was driven by FOIA requests for travel records and meeting calendars of public officials. Reporting on the Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price’s travel led to his resignation. Meeting calendars obtained from various agencies were used to hold officials accountable to their ethics pledges. Calendar and travel record requests are easily imitable and always in need of updating.
Russ Kick’s website AltGov 2 has a collection of calendars for the heads of agencies.
The Daily Dot’s effort to obtain travel records on each cabinet official.
Specific promises: executive orders and ethics agreements
If an agency, an official, or the White House makes a specific promise, you can use FOIA to help determine if that promise has been met. Many executive orders contain deadlines for specific work products from agencies, such as reports or new databases. Many of the forms political appointees file with the Office of Government Ethics represent specific promises, such as Certificate of Divestiture forms or ethics agreements.
First Look Media’s database of the Trump administration’s executive orders, including whether deadlines have been met and whether any work products are public.
Office of Government Ethics searchable repository of ethics agreements and divestiture forms.
What don’t we know?
A helpful exercise for coming up with ideas for requests is finding gaps in public knowledge. There are many broad-based attempts to hold the Trump administration accountable that still have significant gaps to be filled. Find them and file requests!
ProPublica has a helpful running update on what we know and don’t know about Trump’s deregulation task forces.
The Center for Public Integrity has a crowd-sourced database about the financial interests of Trump appointees.
Have ideas about how to use FOIA to hold the Trump administration accountable in 2018? Join our Slack channel to discuss and strategize.
Image via PXhere