At a Glance

CLC is suing the GSA over its refusal to provide travel records responsive to CLC’s FOIA request.

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About this Case

About the case

In Campaign Legal Center v. General Services Administration, Campaign Legal Center (“CLC”) is suing the General Services Administration (“GSA”) over its refusal to provide travel records responsive to CLC’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request.

In September 2017, several media outlets reported that cabinet members had spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to travel on government planes. All government agencies that operate their own planes are required to report to the GSA the use of planes to carry senior federal officials and non-federal travelers. Because CLC was concerned that cabinet members and other senior officials were abusing taxpayer-funded planes, we filed a FOIA request with GSA in order to examine these records and publicize any violations of laws, regulations, or best practices.

GSA denied our request and subsequent appeal. GSA erroneously claimed that the records at issue were not its “agency records” within the meaning of the FOIA law, and suggested that CLC instead make hundreds of individual requests to various federal agencies, even though GSA had itself already collected all the records. Because this is an improper withholding in violation of FOIA, CLC is suing in federal court and asking that the court order GSA to release the records.

Read CLC's lawsuit.

What’s at Stake

Since CLC’s initial request, two cabinet secretaries have resigned partly due to travel-related scandals and at least two other cabinet-level officials have come under serious scrutiny, including from the Inspectors General of their own Departments. CLC’s initial FOIA request reflected our desire to assure the American people that their government was working for the public interest and, if not, suggest corrective action.

GSA’s denial of CLC’s request would mean that CLC and other watchdog groups would have to file over one hundred separate FOIA requests—all to get the information that GSA currently has. This would cause inordinate delays and an unnecessary burden. The public is legally entitled to the information at issue here and GSA should not be allowed to play “keep away” in order to delay CLC’s efforts to ensure the most senior members of our government are complying with ethics rules.

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