When President Barack Obama took office he vowed that his administration would be “the most open and transparent in history.” Now on the cusp of his second term, the president’s declaration is proving false. According to Bloomberg, several of Obama’s cabinet agencies have failed to adhere to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the news agency for details on out-of-town travel records.
Nine of 15 cabinet offices have yet to release details of their out-of-town travel records six months after Bloomberg News filed requests for those documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services are among those who haven’t complied.
The law requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 working days. Watchdogs say the delays show that the president hasn’t fulfilled his promise of greater transparency, and one group found that more than half of 99 federal offices ignored a directive to overhaul the way they respond to filings.
News agencies have become more interested in the travel records for these agencies since the General Service Administration’s inspector general revealed in April that the agency used more than $800,000 taxpayer dollars to sponsor a conference in Las Vegas in 2010. Records obtained from a previous Bloomberg FOIA request showed the GSA’s history of misusing taxpayer dollars.
Taxpayers paid $27.8 million for more than 200 overnight gatherings attended by at least 50 GSA employees over the five-year period, the records showed.
Likewise, another FOIA request exposed the Department of Veterans Affairs of spending “about $295 million of taxpayer money for almost 1,600 overnight gatherings attended by at least 50 agency employees since 2005.”