NEW FOIA Reforms: A Chance to Shine Some Light on Scientology's IRS Tax Exemption

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Ruh roh. Opposition to the best part of the proposed FOIA reforms (the 25yr sunset rule on certain exemptions) has reared its ugly head.

FEDERAL AGENCIES: Subtle push against FOIA bill begins in administrative branch
http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060014500
...

Worries from the agencies are whispered into lawmakers' ears and then burrow into their official statements, raising alarm about FOIA's increased burdens if Congress tinkers with it yet again.

That has already begun to happen with S. 337, the "FOIA Improvement Act." In the report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week on the bill, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said the Department of Justice and assistant U.S. attorneys told him that a specific provision of the legislation could trigger new litigation.

"I am informed by both the Department of Justice and the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys that the 25-year sunset provision on Exemption 5 could invite defendants and their lawyers to use FOIA as an alternative discovery tool in attempts to re-open closed cases," Sessions said in a section tucked in at the end of the report and titled "Additional views from Senator Sessions."

Sessions, a former U.S. attorney, also said that "by subjecting such documents to potential disclosure, this legislation could chill government lawyers from offering candid advice and invite criminal defendants and their attorneys to re-open and re-litigate long-resolved cases."

Earlier in the Senate report -- which was filed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary panel's chairman -- it's noted that the sunset provision strikes "the proper balance" between FOIA's goal of transparency and "avoiding unintended consequences that might chill internal decision-making between government employees."

Sessions' attention is focused on a provision in the bill that restricts agency use of FOIA's Exemption 5, which blocks disclosure of records dealing with internal deliberations, to documents created less than 25 years ago. That provision would have weakened Exemption 5 even further, but its tougher language was stripped from the bill last Congress in order to gain support from lawmakers (E&E Daily, Nov. 21, 2014).

...

This is the same bullshit excuse Sen. Rockefeller tried to use in his 11th hour cock block last year, but got shot down as a non-issue.

Fortunately, the Senate has already passed their version of 2015 bill. But as noted upstream, the House of Reps is still stewing on their version. For US citizens that care to harpoon this, the relevant subcommittee members that still have control of the House's bill are listed here: http://oversight.house.gov/subcommittee/subcommittee-on-government-operations/

They hail from these states: NC, SC, GA, MI, WI, OH, MA, CO, KY, VA, NY, DC, MO and Virgin Islands.
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
What can we do to help get this passed?

It's a little tricky to answer that definitely at this point since the congressional record on the subcommittee hearing last week was left open for five days for further remarks.

Also, the subcommittee Chairman Mark Meadows who steered that meeting made no facebook post about the hearing that could be easily hit with a comment. But a tweet sent to him @RepMarkMeadows is an option. Same goes for committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, nothing on his facebook page about the bill that can be commented on, but his twitter handle is @jasoninthehouse. Other relevant groups of congress critters can be hit at @GOPoversight and @OversightDems.

An example of a tweet I spat out regarding this latest news is here: https://twitter.com/DatumOmNom/status/573604583647395840

The next steps for the passing the proposed legislation roughly follows this outline:

1. House Government Operations Subcommittee blessing is reached and the bill moves forward as "reported" (status update pending the hearing record being closed and decisions made if they approve HR653 as is or want changes made)

2a. House Government Oversight & Reform committee brings HR653 to the House floor for a vote (Probably Reps Issa or Cummings as original bill sponsors, unless they can get Chaffetz on board)

2b. Senate Judiciary Committee brings S337 to the floor for a vote (Sen. Cornyn or Leahy, and this should be another no-brainer, slam dunk unanimous vote since the differences between the 2014 and 2015 bills is barely noticeable)

3. If it passes the House and Senate, then a merging of the two bills happens (I'm not sure how this works ATM, hopefully it is just procedural and won't require floating back thru the House and Senate for another round of voting)

4. Merged bill goes to the president for signing.

Once step 2a is on the House floor agenda, the big push to harpoon your congress critters in the House of Reps (who are NOT listed as sponsors on the bill already) to vote yes on HR653 will become a priority. Until then, only selective harpoons can be effectively waged *IF* your Reps are in the right places: primarily the relevant subcommittee members need urged to move HR653 forward. Or secondarily, urge reps on the Oversight committee to do whatever they can make sure the bill comes to the House floor for a vote.

Unlike Senators who tend to have a contact form on their website open to everyone, House Reps require your address and only respond to their constituents. So check these lists of committee / subcommitte members to see if you have someone in the right place:

Full committee: http://oversight.house.gov/subcommittee/full-committee/
Relevant subcommittee: http://oversight.house.gov/subcommittee/subcommittee-on-government-operations/

Once news break on the House subcommittee making a decision, I'll relay further info for a more targeted approach. Meanwhile, it looks like the bill picked up 6 more sponsors as of yesterday's congressional record update (March 4th), so that's a real good sign. Here's the full list of current sponsors of the House bill (11 GOP, 4 Dem):

Rep Issa, Darrell E. [R-CA49] - introduced 2/2/2015
Rep Allen, Rick W. [R-GA12] - 3/4/2015
Rep Bucshon, Larry [R-IN8] - 3/4/2015
Rep Byrne, Bradley [R-AL1] - 3/4/2015
Rep Carter, Earl L. "Buddy" [R-GA1] - 3/4/2015
Rep Connolly, Gerald E. [D-VA11] - 2/24/2015
Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [D-MD7] - introduced 2/2/2015
Rep DesJarlais, Scott [R-TN4] - 2/27/2015
Rep Farenthold, Blake [R-TX27] - 2/27/2015
Rep Franks, Trent [R-AZ8] - 3/4/2015
Rep Guinta, Frank C. [R-NH1] - 2/27/2015
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC] - 2/24/2015
Rep Quigley, Mike [D-IL5] - 2/2/2015
Rep Sessions, Pete [R-TX32] - 3/4/2015
Rep Tipton, Scott R. [R-CO3] - 3/4/2015
 
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AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
It's the first day of Sunshine Week, a celebration of the FOIA legislation. And House Republicans continue to jump on the FOIA Reform bill like flies on shit!

From H.R. 653: FOIA Act: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653

New Cosponsor: Rep. Michael McCaul [R-TX10]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Tim Walberg [R-MI7]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Paul Gosar [R-AZ4]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Dennis Ross [R-FL15]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Robert Hurt [R-VA5]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Doug Collins [R-GA9]
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Bump for updates on House bill HR 653. Following the subcommittee hearing a couple weeks ago, these are the major events that happened.

A short list of opengov and FOIA advocates submitted the following letter supporting the House's proposed bill and boldly inserting their own response the subcommittee's chairman remark to one of the key speakers asking for further suggestion on improvements if she had anything else to offer them. These suggestions are quite brazen, damn near epic, but way beyond the mild mannered nature of the tweaks in the currently proposed bills. Unfortunately, they were ignored. But I give these folks 8/10 congressional trolling points for the awesome effort that went into this response:

https://nsarchive.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/foia-written-testimony-final-1.pdf

The one big group missing from the above letter was Sunshine In Gov folks, but they had their top guy on the panel of speakers at the hearing. So it's understandable their written letter of support for the legislation had to play nice and support the current bill rather than go the route of politely pissing in the subcommittee's cornflakes like the above letter does:

http://sunshineingovernment.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SGI-HR653-support-letter.pdf

There was also two amendments proposed, one a trivial play on words by Malone that seemed like hair splitting. The other was a nice twist by Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (who stuck his 2cents worth into a subcommittee he doesn't sit on!) that broaden the court fees government agencies have to pay if they get proven wrong.

Fast forward to today: the subcommittee had an agenda item to review the bill and the proposed amendments then markup the pending HR653 legislation for final changes. The discussion was much faster paced than the hearing and the congress critters volleyed various issues around in circles. Cummings ranted a few times when stupid points were made and pretty much railroaded the bill to a vote. The Maloney amendment was withdrawn, while Chaffetz' "Manager's Amendment" stuck. And the proposed bill with Chaffetz amendment markup applied was voted on and passed the subcommittee stage. Next stop, House Floor vote.

Major highlights from social media buzz while the subcommittee meeting was being live streamed:
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AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Oversight Committee Dems did a good job summarizing HR 653 in this press release:
http://democrats.oversight.house.go...tee-passes-bipartisan-foia-reform-legislation

Also this...

3 things to know about a key FOIA reform bill making its way through Congress
http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawi...-reform-bill-making-its-way-through-congress/

And it has 13 new cosponsors (amended text not online yet):
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653

New Cosponsor: Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R-TX5]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Michael “Mike” Honda [D-CA17]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Charles “Charlie” Rangel [D-NY13]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson [D-GA4]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Peter Welch [D-VT0]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Bill Foster [D-IL11]
New Cosponsor: Commish. Pedro Pierluisi [D-PR0]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Marlin Stutzman [R-IN3]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Ann Kuster [D-NH2]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Mike Bishop [R-MI8]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Brenda Lawrence [D-MI14]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Tom Emmer [R-MN6]
New Cosponsor: Rep. Brad Ashford [D-NE2]

That makes 33 cosponsors overall. I do believe The House being the potential bottleneck is no longer a valid concern. :happydance:
 

OneLove

New Member
I'm new here and am very happy to see this is happening. I've tried to write various government bodies about the problems I have had and was completely blown off (have to wonder if the church is paying people off). But this FOIA bill would be wonderful as hopefully more of this corrupt organization can be exposed. Great Forum and thank you for all your posts.
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Some minor updates on the pending bills....

Sneaky fk'rs in the Senate tried to sneak in this sneaky little twist that would circumvent some of the improvements the new bills propose.

Dust-up over new FOIA exemption in cyber bill
http://www.politico.com/blogs/under...-new-foia-exemption-in-cyber-bill-205760.html

Meanwhile in the House, the number of co-sponsors has grown so large with everybody and their brother jumping on the bandwagon to support it, I wasn't able to keep track of who's new and who's not. So we're at 42 House Reps total as of today: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653
 

dchoiceisalwaysrs

Gold Meritorious Patron
Good time to write your representative and support this bill and while you are at it ask how you can get information on the fraudulent activities of scientology.

Some minor updates on the pending bills....

Sneaky fk'rs in the Senate tried to sneak in this sneaky little twist that would circumvent some of the improvements the new bills propose.

Dust-up over new FOIA exemption in cyber bill
http://www.politico.com/blogs/under...-new-foia-exemption-in-cyber-bill-205760.html

Meanwhile in the House, the number of co-sponsors has grown so large with everybody and their brother jumping on the bandwagon to support it, I wasn't able to keep track of who's new and who's not. So we're at 42 House Reps total as of today: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
Bump for a sign that the congressional constipation on the FOIA reform bills has possibly been treated with some sort of legislative laxative in the House!

GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy has put it on this week's agenda for the "Items that may be considered under suspension of the rules" schedule. (which seems odd, it went stale nearly a year ago under this quickie-vote status and I expected that if it ever made it back to the floor it would be full-rules apply status. Erego - laxative assumption!)

Current House Floor Agenda: http://docs.house.gov/floor/

This billing seemingly has good support, so the quickie vote status is probably a good thing. It currently has 55 co-sponsors (29R, 26D) and was the rebirthed baby of Rep. Issa.

I recommend folks interested in seeing this pass check the list of cosponsors for their Representative, and if your congress critter in the House hasn't signed on then give 'em a gentle nudge to support it: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653
 

AnonyMary

Formerly Fooled - Finally Free
Bump for a sign that the congressional constipation on the FOIA reform bills has possibly been treated with some sort of legislative laxative in the House!

GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy has put it on this week's agenda for the "Items that may be considered under suspension of the rules" schedule. (which seems odd, it went stale nearly a year ago under this quickie-vote status and I expected that if it ever made it back to the floor it would be full-rules apply status. Erego - laxative assumption!)

Current House Floor Agenda: http://docs.house.gov/floor/

This billing seemingly has good support, so the quickie vote status is probably a good thing. It currently has 55 co-sponsors (29R, 26D) and was the rebirthed baby of Rep. Issa.

I recommend folks interested in seeing this pass check the list of cosponsors for their Representative, and if your congress critter in the House hasn't signed on then give 'em a gentle nudge to support it: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653

I'm writing my congressman now.

FYI, H.R. 653 was amended with a technical correction 1/11/2016
H.R. 653 FOIA Act, as amended [PDF]
Added 01/07/2016 at 10:53 PM
Updated 01/11/2016 at 11:18 AM
Technical Correction
http://docs.house.gov/floor/

The link you provided of the text is from Jan 7th so it's not the latest corrected version


H.R. 653: FOIA Act Amended corrected 1/11/2016 version here
Tracked events for H.R. 653: FOIA Act
Bill Summary — Jan 11, 2016 4:40 p.m.
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr653/summary


Full updated version as of 1/11/2016 in PDF
http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20160111/h653_sus_xml2.pdf

"The FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 653), or the FOIA Act, would require several changes to the current process of allowing individuals to obtain records from federal agencies, including establishing a single website for making FOIA requests and creating a Chief FOIA Officers Council to review and improve the process. The legislation also would:

Direct agencies to make records available in an electronic format

Reduce the number of exemptions agencies can use to withhold information from the public

Clarify procedures for handling frequently requested documents and charging fees

Require courts to pay some attorney fees and other litigation costs related to FOIA disputes "

Subject Areas
Government Operations and Politics
Administrative law and regulatory procedures
Advisory bodies
Alternative dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration
 

AnonyMary

Formerly Fooled - Finally Free
Oops! Sorry about that. I get a weekly digest email from govtrack every Sunday night for the bills, committees and congress critters I follow. So I had lifted the news/links from there.

No problem! I don't know how you keep up with everything! You are a powerhouse ( and a very helpful team member at Narconon Reviews )

Pity Scientology and Narconon. I'm just glad you are on my side :biggrin:
 

AnonLover

Patron Meritorious
More infos...

Fixing FOIA: Senate-passed bill is a good start, but more is needed | EFF
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/03/fixing-foia-senate-passed-bill-good-start-more-needed

Why we need to increase government transparency in 2016 | AL
http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/03/why_we_need_to_increase_govern.html

Major take-aways: It's Sunshine Week, so suddenly congress decided to shake a leg. The House bill that passed last December was strategically better for more openness, while the Senate bill that passed yesterday was better technologically. Next step is to settle differences between both bills while attempting to avoid a joint conference committee before getting a merged bill sent to President.
 
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