Fun With FOIA: #FixFOIAby50


It’s a thing. Trending soon, I guarantee. For now, though, I’m guessing you have some basic questions about it, maybe including:

Who is behind it? The Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI). This is a group of media organizations, including AAN, who are “committed to promoting policies that ensure the government is accessible, accountable and open.”

What is it? An SGI-initiated effort to move legislation to reform the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). There are currently bills pending in both the House (HR 653) and Senate (S 337). They have passed the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively, but have not been scheduled for floor votes. The bills also differ from each other, so if one bill moves quicker than its counterpart it still must get through the other chamber as well. This could take some time.

The #FixFOIAby50 campaign takes advantage of that hashtag to generate interest and buzz around FOIA reform. There will be fun facts about FOIA, important updates about the legislation and information you can use to get yourself up to speed on this legislative issue.

When is it happening? Now! And until FOIA Reform happens. #FixFOIAby50 was launched on July 6 and we won’t stop until either HR 653 or S 337 becomes law.

Where can I find out more? You should definitely start following the Sunshine in Government Initiative on Twitter (@SunshineinGov), make sure to search the hashtag #FixFOIAby50 as often as possible and check out these additional resources created in support of this effort.

Why #FixFOIAby50? The number 50 currently has a lot of relevance to FOIA. The law will turn 50 in less than a year, having been enacted on July 4, 1966. That’s the first goal: Get FOIA fixed by the time it turns 50!

But to do this we need additional support in the House and Senate. Thus we need support by 50 new Senators and Congressmen! Specifically, HR 653 currently has 49 co-sponsors; we’d like that number to increase t to 100 (by 50! – OK 51!) before the end of the August Congressional recess. Same for the Senate: there are currently 4 co-sponsors of S 337; we’d like to reach 50 by the same date.

Finally, despite many of the frustrations encountered by journalists and others using FOIA, it’s still a valuable tool for holding government accountable. Take a look at this incredible resource, SGI’s “FOIA Files” database, which shows how the law was used by journalists in every state. So to be successful, we need support by people in all 50 states!

And a bonus: How can I help? Easy: Get involved, stay involved. Reach out to your Congressman or Senator and ask him or her to co-sponsor HR 653 or S 337, as relevant. Engage him or her when they are in their home district this summer. Write about it. Explain why the federal FOIA matters in your local communities. Tweet interesting FOIA-related stories and information using #FixFOIAby50 and retweet others. Join the conversation and draw your legislators into the conversation as well.

For more information you can also contact me at 703-812-0462 or