Rockefeller Issues Statement Opposing FOIA Legislation

5 December 2014

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on Dec. 5 said he opposed a pending freedom of information reform bill because it would have the unintended consequence of impairing enforcement of laws protecting consumers from financial fraud.

His four-page statement confirmed reports that he is opposing the widely supported, bipartisan bill (S 2520), apparently the only senator to feel that way. A parallel bill passed unanimously in the House, a virtually unheard of result in the current political environment, and supports had hoped for unanimous support in the Senate.

The nature of his objection, seemingly directed at a core provision, would appear to doom the bill this year, barring last-minute compromise. In the final days of the congressional session, even one senator can block a bill. Rockefeller hinted at compromise, saying, “I hope there is a way to address these concerns and pass the bill.”

Unnamed Experts Cited

The senator cited unnamed “experts across the federal government.”

Sources had told FreedomInfo.org Dec. 4 that officials at the Federal Trade Commission felt this way. The FTC told FreedomInfo.org it would not comment.

Rockefeller said the “unintended consequences” of unspecified provisions.

He said the bill “would make it harder for federal agency attorneys to prepare their cases, and they would potentially give defendants new ways to obstruct and delay investigations into their conduct.”

He appears to be alluding to a requirement in the bill that agencies should process requests under the assumption that the records must be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or specific legal or statutory prohibitions on its release.

Text of Rockefeller Statement

“I have a long record of support for open government and the FOIA process. I am concerned that provisions in this bill will have the unintended consequence of harming our ability to enforce the many important federal laws that protect American consumers from financial fraud and other abuses. According to experts across the federal government, these provisions would make it harder for federal agency attorneys to prepare their cases, and they would potentially give defendants new ways to obstruct and delay investigations into their conduct. I hope there is a way to address these concerns and pass the bill.”

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