Happy Birthday, James Madison! And Happy FOIA Day to everyone else.
A popular government without popular information, or means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the Power which Knowledge gives. – James Madison
Today is the 366th birthday of James Madison, the ‘Father of the Constitution’. Not only did he assist in drafting the document, he co-authored the Federalist Papers, to convince New York to ratify it. He then drafted the Bill of Rights (the first Ten Amendments), starting with the more important than ever rights to free speech and a free press.
Madison was a strong advocate for open government. For this reason, we celebrate the 1966 Freedom of Information Act or FOIA on his birthday. Pioneered by Congressman John Moss (D-CA), FOIA allows the public to request federal records. (States have similar laws.) FOIA is an important oversight tool, even if agencies can withhold certain types of information (for national security, or to protect privacy for instance). What’s more, now there’s a whole Sunshine week.
Some wage broad open government campaigns. Others make targeted requests. The ACLU has requested records from the Office of Government Ethics about Trump’s conflict of interests. You can join the ACLU action, or FOIA a federal agency of your choice! Ask EPA for a list of Pruitt’s meetings, or the Labor Department for all wage and hour enforcement actions begun since January 20. Or, FOIA the IRS for Trump’s tax returns using this guide. The IRS must deny requests for personal tax returns (or for family corporations), but some want to file these requests anyway to show the public does care about Trump’s taxes.
Today’s Action: Join the ACLU’s Trump’s Conflicts FOIA, or write your own!! Celebrate the public’s access to government information!