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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Alaskans! Get Your Act Together

Posted by on March 8 at 12:06 PM

I called Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’s office this morning and asked: “Who’s the appropriate person in your office to direct a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to.”


“Who’s the appropriate person in your office to direct a Freedom of Information Act request to?”

“Well, what do you want to know?” (Witty receptionist.)

“I want to know who’s the appropriate person in your office to direct a Freedom of Information Act request to?”

“Well, um, I’ve never gotten one of those before.”


“The chief of staff, I guess.”

UPDATE! UPDATE! Hold Your fire. Burn on me. Unlike all federal agencies, Congress is Not Subject to the FOIA. I owe Stevens’s receptionist (and all Alaskans) an apology. I always thought all members of Congress were subject to the FOIA, just like our local electeds at city hall are subject local public disclosure request laws. I was wrong.

It kind of sucks that Congress isn’t subject to the FOIA. No?

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Stevens' office didn't know what you were talking about because Congress is not subject to the FOIA. See, e.g., United We Stand Am. v. IRS, 359 F.3d 595, 597 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("The Freedom of Information Act does not cover congressional documents."); Dow Jones & Co. v. Dep't of Justice, 917 F.2d 571, 574 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (holding that Congress is not an agency for any purpose under FOIA); see also Mayo v. United States Gov't Printing Office, 9 F.3d 1450, 1451 (9th Cir. 1994) (deciding that Government Printing Office is part of congressional branch and therefore is not subject to FOIA); Owens v. Warner, No. 93-2195, slip op. at 1 (D.D.C. Nov. 24, 1993) (ruling that office of Senator John Warner is not subject to FOIA), summary affirmance granted, No. 93-5415, 1994 WL 541335 (D.C. Cir. May 25, 1994).


"FOIA applies to all 15 departments (Education, Homeland Security, etc.) and 73 other federal agencies (Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Reserve System) in the executive branch of the U.S. government. It does not apply to the president, Congress or the courts. It does not apply to state governments (though each of the 50 states has its own freedom-of-information laws, as do many cities)."


Gee Feit, maybe you should GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!

I'll be damned. You guys are right.
I did not know that. I always thought members of Congress were subject to the Freedom of Information Act just like our local electeds at city hall are subject to local public disclosure request laws.

Burn on me. I guess I owe Stevens's receptionist (and the state of Alaska) an apology.

Man, Congress members aren't subject to the FOIA? That sucks.

Bring on six million comments from all the dudes who wish josh would be their butt slave.

Congress also isn't subject to workplace safety laws or pretty much anything else. The last place in the country you can legally smoke around pregnant ladies in an office? Congress.

Our world-class reporter has just discovered that FOIA does not apply to Congress.

Hey, how long till the Times gives The Stranger credit for that scoop!

Bad timing, Josh-- same day you ridicule Seattle Metropolitan for being insufficiently hip you step in your own do-do. And if Seattle Weekly had made this gaffe....why, that's a 10-part series!

Where is Gasgirl when we need her?

Never mind the FOIA issue.

It's doubtful Walter Conkhite would use his pen to ridicule a receptionist. What a cheap shot.

That's really talking back to power, Josh.

i think that receptionist just pWnED yOU!!!111one!!

Also, the receptionist was not necessarily being "witty" when she asked what you wanted. Each Congressional office (esp. someone as high ranking as Stevens) has different staff for different areas. You don't need to go into the details but give her the general area (e.g., environmental, economic, international, local Alaska issues). That way you can talk to someone who focuses on that issue. Additionally, there are staff at the regional level who are located in state, so often you would be directed to contact them.

I've found Congressional staff to be pretty helpful, especially in either sending on reports or letting me know where to find them, so unless you are asking for something pretty confidential (like the Senator's personal notes) they might be able to help you.

Man, Congress members aren't subject to the FOIA? That sucks.

Or labor laws, or accounting practices or much of anything else that applies to me and thee. Great setup we've got there.

And we want to give these guys more power over our lives? Term limits, salary reductions are in order.

Brian ---

Yu missed the Republicn led movement for term limits it appers. That was back when the Dems controlled Congress.

Supremes ruled on the issue, Washington's Tom Foley from Spokane led the challenge.

He irritated the R's in his district and lost his seat. After all, he was only then, THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, what the hell could that mean for his district and Washington State.

Term limits by the way is in effect every year - voting.

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