In the Obama era, when you ask the government to do its job, you get a bill for a million dollars.
This actually happened when the Associated Press asked the Obama Labor Department for email addresses of political appointees. The administration responded by illegally demanding $1.03 million. The department claimed that in order to produce the data, it would have to retrieve 2,236 computer backup tapes from archives and have 50 employees go through the records.
Under DoL’s own FoIA rules, the department isn’t allowed to charge media outlets for any of its expenses except for photocopies beyond an initial 100 pages. Under pressure, the department later backed down, claiming the demand was a mistake, and handed over the email addresses to the newsgathering organization.
“The Department of Labor was holding the public ransom for public records,” said Christopher C. Horner, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“They’re not even trying to demonstrate an exemption; they’re just running a fee barrier,” said Horner, author of The Liberal War on Transparency. Horner said that in his experience FoIA fees applying to left-leaning green groups tend to be waived, but conservative groups’ FoIA fees rarely are.