In what is becoming a regular spectacle, the Obama administration has been caught breaking the law to try to stem the public’s ability to get information it is entitled to.
Political operatives within the Obama administration wrongly punished conservative legal group Judicial Watch, stripping it of “media” status and trying to force it to pay higher fees for its open records requests, the General Services Administration inspector general said in a letter released Thursday.
The GSA botched several high-profile open records requests, delaying them for months while political appointees got involved, Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa said. The findings were released while the administration was facing charges of slow-walking open records requests for Hillary Clinton’s emails, as well as other requests.
In the case of Judicial Watch, the order to strip it of media status came from political operatives with long ties to Democratic causes — and even from the White House.
The inspector general said the decision came at the behest of Gregory Mecher, a former Democratic campaign fundraiser who at the time was liaison to the White House. He is married to Jen Psaki, a longtime spokeswoman with the Obama administration and its election campaigns.
Ms. Ochoa said stripping Judicial Watch of media status violated several agency policies and things got worse when the GSA denied an appeal by the group.
The same person who ruled on the initial request also ruled on the appeal, “contrary to GSA procedures,” the inspector general said.
To put this in context, all Judicial Watch wanted was a video that would probably end up making a lot of folks look pretty silly:
The group was trying to get a look at a goofy video produced by the agency’s New York office on company time and using company resources. The GSA at the time was facing fierce criticism from Capitol Hill for having wasted money on lavish conferences with questionable team-building activities such as the video.
Judicial Watch asked to be treated similar to a member of the media, which would mean an exemption from fees. Two weeks earlier, Judicial Watch was approved for the media exemption.
This is an incredible and blatant abuse of the law. Agencies often deny material on semi-specious grounds but the wholesale abuse of the FOIA system documented here shows just how ingrained pettiness, lawlessness, and secrecy are in this regime. There has not been an administration more hostile to freedom of the press, oversight both from Congress, and accountability to the voters than this bunch. The Obama administration has managed to make Nixon’s look open and welcoming.