CLC Joins 42 Civil Society Groups in Call for Increased Government Transparency

Joe Biden giving a speech at a podium with a large red "ON AIR" sign hanging in front of him
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a virtual event in the East Room of the White House in Washington on February 19th, 2021. Photo by Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) joined 42 civil society organizations calling on the Biden administration to implement a bold transparency agenda. The letter highlights the important role that transparency, accountability, and oversight play in ensuring the public’s trust in government.

The health of our democracy in part depends on the Biden administration improving how it administers agency policies that require transparency in government decision making, including the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Federal Records Act, and the Presidential Records Act.

These policies ensure records are created, preserved, and accessible to the public. With more robust government transparency measures in place, the public is better able to assess potential conflicts of interest and determine whether government officials are acting in their own interest or in the public’s interest.

The letter proposes commonsense reforms that the Biden administration can implement to increase transparency. For example, President Biden should direct agencies to work toward more proactive disclosure of government records, instead of waiting for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

President Biden also should make it explicit that it is necessary for FOIA officers to consider the public interest in determining whether to invoke a discretionary disclosure exemption.

Other reforms in the letter include:

  • Supporting funding for implementing and upkeeping federal public records laws.
  • Reviewing open FOIA lawsuits to ensure the government’s positions in those lawsuits are aligned with the Biden administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability. 
  • Taking other steps necessary to ensure agencies’ policies for record retention and disclosure prioritize transparency and the public’s interest.

Increased transparency in government serves all Americans, and the issue has widespread bipartisan support. The Biden administration should take bold action now to maximize public access and oversight, and, in doing so, strengthen the public’s trust in government.

Delaney is the Director, Ethics at CLC.
Promoting Transparency and Government Oversight