Democratic operatives have sought and obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the Environmental Protection Agency at a rate well surpassing that of Republican researchers, The Washington Times
Such material, intended for use in forthcoming election campaigns, could be employed to portray candidates or incumbents as backing special interests, pursuing hidden agendas, or championing politically embarrassing causes.
Political researchers are known to be imaginative in anticipating whom to investigate and what to look for – and to do so well in advance of any actual campaign, Jeffrey Berkowitz, a research consultant, told the Times.
The goal is to obtain through FOIA as many records with the name of the target you are interested in, Berkowitz told the newspaper.
More than 28 of 50 FOIA requests filed by Democrats with the EPA— in search of emails and letters between Republicans and agency officials— have been fulfilled, the Times reported.
Republican operatives have filed four requests since 2012, all of which are pending, including a query for correspondence between then-Sen. John Kerry and former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.
Democratic researchers have obtained EPA documents on GenOn Energy, where Iowa Republican Senate candidate Mark Jacobs was a top official; on Montana Republican Rep. Steve Daines, who is running for Senate, and on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seeking re-election in Kentucky.
Republicans may well be equally active in searching for revealing correspondence between Democrats and EPA officials. GOP researchers might be using intermediaries to cloak the source and purpose of their inquiries, the Times reported.
Republicans have charged the EPA is more forthcoming with liberal groups than conservative think tanks. The Society of Environmental Journalists
has characterized the agency's transparency practices as "incredibly secretive" under the Obama administration. Conservative groups have charged that administration operatives sometimes scrutinize FOIA requests, delaying the furnishing of materials, the Times reported.
EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told the Times in an email the agency processed all FOIA requests on a nonpartisan basis and listed them on the Internet in the interest of transparency.
The Freedom of Information Act was enacted in 1966 and subsequently amended to take electronic information into account. Anyone may make a filing. To research who has made an FOI request, go to FOIAonline.
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