[Ed. – Score one for the good guys.]
Government transparency advocates won a significant victory Tuesday as a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission cannot use unreasonably high fees or excessive demonstrations of readership to deny document requests from journalists and other users of the Freedom of Information Act.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that “erroneous interpretations” of the FOIA by the Federal Trade Commission unreasonably required Cause of Action, a non-profit government watchdog, to demonstrate that its activities would educate “the public at large.”
In a stinging rebuke, the appeals court noted that the FOIA only requires that Cause of Action contribute “significantly to the ‘public’ understanding,” and further observed that “to the contrary, we have held that ‘proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross-section of the public is not required.’”
The appeals court took the case after Cause of Action appealed a lower court’s decision upholding the FTC interpretation in a case involving the non-profit’s request in 2011 for documents concerning how the commission creates guidance for private businesses on the use of endorsements in advertising.