Posted by Curt on 29 September, 2016 at 6:18 pm. 1 comment.


Stephen Dinan:

Political operatives within the Obama administration wrongly punished conservative legal group Judicial Watch, stripping it of “media” status and trying to force it to pay higher fees for its open-records requests, the General Services Administration inspector general said in a letter released Thursday.

The GSA botched several high-profile open-records requests, delaying them for months while political appointees got involved, Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa said. The findings come at a time when the administration is facing charges that it is slow-walking open-records requests for Hillary Clinton’s emails, as well as other requests.

In the case of Judicial Watch, the order to strip it of media status came from political operatives with long ties to Democratic causes — and even to the White House.

The inspector general said the decision came at the behest of Gregory Mecher, a former Democratic campaign-fundraiser who at the time was liaison to the White House. He also is married to Jen Psaki, a longtime spokeswoman with the Obama administration and its election campaigns.

Ms. Ochoa said stripping Judicial Watch of media status violated several agency policies — and things got worse when the group appealed, and the GSA denied the appeal.

The same person who ruled on the initial request also ruled on the appeal, “contrary to GSA procedures,” the inspector general said.

Judicial Watch ended up suing over the request, the agency finally agreed to waive all fees and even ended up paying Judicial Watch $750 as part of the settlement.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, questioned the agency’s decision to fight a losing case that ended up costing it money.

“It’s outrageous but not surprising. Welcome to our world. This is what we put up all the time from the agencies,” he said.

President Obama promised a new era of transparency when it came to open-records requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is the chief way for Americans to pry loose information from their national government.

But despite the president’s exhortations, things have gone the other way, and the government is increasingly fighting requests — forcing requesters to sue to get a look at the information to which they think they’re entitled.

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