So much for the most transparent administration in history. The Obama administration spent a staggering $36.2 million in 2016 alone to defend itself from Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, which are filed by private citizens in order to obtain access to documents that have not already been disclosed by the government.
That record-setting figure was accompanied by another equally outrageous milestone: for the second year in a row, the Obama administration reached an all-time high for the number of times that federal employees claimed that they could not find a single document related to a pending FOIA request, the Associated Press reported.
The list of Obama administration misdeeds goes on, with the former president’s government being accused of widespread denial of access to files, slapping fees onto the FOIA process to deter citizen journalists, and dragging its feet on requests that pertain to matters currently in the news.
On several occasions, the government was forced to admit that it had been wrong to deny access to records. Consider, for example, the ongoing Obama IRS scandal, which was marked by several mysteriously rebuffed FOIA requests and relevant documents that were somehow passed over only to be released years later.
In all, the Obama administration received a whopping 788,769 FOIA requests for files in 2016 alone and spent $478 million to deal with them – but it still managed to come away looking like anything but the most transparent administration in history, or even of the last 30 years.
$12 million was granted to the Justice Department to fight FOIA lawsuits last year, as well as $6.3 million to the Homeland Security Department and $4.8 million to the Pentagon, with those three organizations being the target of over half of all FOIA requests lodged in 2016.
Watch Rep. Jason Chaffetz talk about the Obama administration’s “stonewalling” back in 2015: