Offices throughout Washington, D.C., house a league of Freedom of Information Act activists who have been fighting for government transparency for decades — some since FOIA’s inception 40 years ago. In honor of the act’s birthday, the experts graded federal agencies and found that public records aren’t as available as they should be, there is little funding for staffing and supplies, and backlogs are a growing problem in some agencies.
In December 2003, Joe Ellis, a producer for KDFW-TV in Dallas, requested records from the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation about abuse and sexual assault in Texas’ mental health facilities. The department argues that the reports are included in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and that releasing them would violate the patients’ privacy.
Matt Kauffman can’t remember exactly how he and reporting partner Lisa Chedekel began what would become an open government victory and a national story on the how the military ignores the mental health of combat soldiers. What the Connecticut reporter remembers is waiting.
September 1st, 2006 • Quill Archives
Use public records to cover candidates and contributors
Political candidates may not tell reporters all there is to know about themselves, their stances on issues and where money comes from. But records can test campaign slogans, track the money trail, sort hearsay and clear up he-said, she-said debates. As standard procedure, some newspapers routinely check the backgrounds of political candidates.