Here’s a look at the investigations our team has been pursuing through records requests in the last week:
Lawsuit Against USPS for Elusive DeJoy Calendars: Yesterday, we sued the Postal Service for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s calendar records. In August, USPS responded to our initial request for the records by claiming that DeJoy’s calendar, which is kept on a government computer and accessed by agency staff, is a personal record not subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act. Soon after, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recommended that lawmakers consider a subpoena for the documents during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing. (The committee later did issue such a subpoena). You can read more here.
Delays in Mail-Order Prescription Deliveries: DeJoy’s recent cost-cutting efforts at the Postal Service have caused major delays in prescription deliveries for veterans, as 80 percent of outpatient prescriptions provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs are fulfilled by mail. The delays are reportedly putting thousands of lives at risk. We filed FOIA requests with the VA and USPS for communications and assessments regarding prescription delays, and for DeJoy’s emails with VA officials.
Trump-Signed Letter in USDA Food Packages: In July, Fox News reported that Ivanka Trump intended to include a letter signed by President Donald Trump in packages of food distributed by the Agriculture Department’s Farmers to Families Food Box program to those impacted by the pandemic’s economic fallout. Members of Congress later sent a letter dated Aug. 14 to Secretary Sonny Perdue asking about the purpose and logistics of including such a letter. We filed FOIA requests to the USDA for communications, directives, and cost analyses regarding the inclusion of the letters in the food boxes.
FDA Politicization and Covid-19 Treatments: In recent weeks, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn has made statements about potentially fast-tracking coronavirus vaccines and has stirred up controversy by having used misleading statistics to justify granting emergency authorization for treatments promoted by Trump. Such decisions have raised questions about the agency’s potential politicization. We filed FOIA requests with the FDA for internal and external communications regarding coronavirus treatments.
Drug Company Contracts for Covid-19 Vaccine: Along with Accountable Pharma and Lower Drug Prices Now, we filed FOIA requests with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense for any coronavirus vaccine-development contracts with pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, and Sanofi Pasteur. You can read more about the requests here.
DHS Contracts and Communications with Marriott Hotel and Enterprise: In early July, after weeks of anti–police brutality demonstrations in Portland, Ore., the Department of Homeland Security deployed federal agents to suppress the protests in the city. DHS’s aggressive handling of the protests raised concerns about excessive force used by federal agents, and has prompted a House Intelligence Committee investigation and several lawsuits over potential civil rights violations. News reports indicate that federal agents were believed to have stayed in a Marriott hotel and that the agency had rented unmarked vans from Enterprise Holdings. We filed a FOIA request with DHS for any communications or contracts with Marriott or Enterprise.
Barr’s Inaccurate Ballot Fraud Claim: In a CNN interview earlier this month, Attorney General William Barr advocated against mail-in voting and shared a story about a Texas man who collected and falsified 1,700 ballots. But that story never actually happened. When asked about the error, a Justice Department spokesperson said Barr was misled by an inaccurate memo on voting fraud. We filed a FOIA request with the department for the original memo that led Barr to make the false claim about the dangers of voting by mail.
Payday Lending Industry Insider Access: Last October, the Washington Post reported that Mike Hodges, owner of the payday lender agency Advance Financial, told fellow payday lenders at an industry webinar that contributions to Trump’s reelection campaign could possibly be used as leverage to avoid federal industry regulations. We filed a FOIA request with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for high-ranking officials’ communications with representatives of Advance Financial.
Part of Investigation: