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Grassley Legislation Would Restore Public Access Under FOIA

Statement of Patrick Llewellyn, Attorney, Public Citizen Litigation Group

Note: U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced legislation that would remedy the problem caused by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck a blow against transparency under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court’s June ruling in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media severely undermines the public’s ability to track government oversight of private companies. The legislation also is co-sponsored by Sens. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

For decades, everyone – FOIA requesters, the government and corporations – shared a common understanding of what information submitted to the government by companies was required to be disclosed under FOIA. The recent Supreme Court decision upended this understanding by overturning the standard long applied by courts across the country. As a result, access to vital public health and safety information is now at risk, largely subject to the whims of each government agency. This bill will restore the long-held common understanding and will ensure that the public will not lose access to important information. Congress should pass this bill without delay.