The annual Foilie Awards are out; the Electronic Frontier Foundation hands out these sardonic "awards" to the government entities whose Freedom of Information Act responses were the most heel-dragging, kakfaesque, and pointless.
Top prize, the Mulligan, goes to President Trump, who won't release his visitor logs at his "Winter White House" — Mar-a-Lago, a business that enriches him personally every time he does government business there. It appears that these logs haven't been released because they don't exist: the Secret Service isn't even keeping track of who meets with the President when he's spending our money on golf holidays.
Then there's the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who won the Fee of the Year prize for asking $1,132,024.30 to respond to a public records request about prison rape in a state once called "the prison rape capital of the USA."
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed gets the Best Set Design in a Transparency Theater Production for creating a backdrop of bankers boxes alleged to contain millions of public records that would be released — but the docs in the boxes were largely blank or fully covered in black redaction rectangles.
There's loads more in this fourth-annual name-and-shame — a don't-miss rogues' gallery of the most absurd refusals to tell you what your government is doing in your name.
But when a public agency ignores, breaks or twists the law, your recourse varies by jurisdiction. In some states, when an official improperly responds to your public records request, you can appeal to a higher bureaucratic authority or seek help from an ombudsperson. In most states, you can take the dispute to court.
Public shaming and sarcasm, however, are tactics that can be applied anywhere.
The California-based news organization Reveal tweets photos of chickpeas or coffee beans to represent each day a FOIA response is overdue, and asks followers to guess how many there are. The alt weekly DigBoston has sent multiple birthday cakes and edible arrangements to local agencies on the one-year anniversary of delayed public records requests. And here, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, we give out The Foilies during Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of open-government advocacy.
In its fourth year, The Foilies recognizes the worst responses to records requests, outrageous efforts to stymie transparency and the most absurd redactions. These tongue-in-cheek pseudo-awards are hand-chosen by EFF's team based on nominations from fellow transparency advocates, participants in #FOIAFriday on Twitter, and, in some cases, our own personal experience.
The Foilies 2018
[Dave Maass, Aaron Mackey, and Camille Fischer/EFF]