This lawsuit challenges the Office of Management and Budget’s contemptuous disregard for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA requires agencies to grant or deny a records request within 20 days, which the courts say requires telling you how many records they are going to give you, and how many they will withhold as privileged. But when CEI’s Chris Horner submitted a FOIA request in July 2014, seeking communications by Cass Sunstein’s deputy at OMB related to the EPA’s “War on Coal,” OMB didn’t do anything of the kind, and could not be bothered to comply with its legal obligations.
Horner had explained in his original FOIA request why CEI was entitled to a complete waiver of all fees, based on the nature of the information sought, public interest in the subject, and CEI’s non-profit status and role in disseminating information to the public, yet still offered $150 to pay for photocopying and the records search. More than 50 days after Horner’s request, OMB finally wrote back to Horner saying it was “closing the file” on his request without disclosing how many records it was withholding, or would have to be processed if it granted his request. The OMB’s explanation was that processing the request would supposedly cost more than the $150 he offered. That completely disregarded the fact that the agency wasn’t entitled to charge any fees to begin with. Then, when Horner appealed this lawless decision, OMB just ignored his appeal, leaving him no choice but to sue to obtain redress and the access to public records that is his right under federal law.