One Year of American Oversight

One year ago today, we launched American Oversight with a mission that was anything but simple: hold the Trump administration accountable by extracting evidence of corruption, malfeasance, or other misconduct. By highlighting the administration’s own words and documents, we let the corrupt condemn themselves.

1 year

750 public records requests

37 lawsuits

10,000s of pages of government records

The Trump administration has exceeded even our most pessimistic expectations; everywhere we’ve looked, we have seen issues demanding urgent investigation. From spending on luxury flights and office furniture, to nepotism and outright lies, Trump appointees have amassed an unprecedented record of corruption demanding urgent public scrutiny.

In response, we have submitted more than 750 public records requests to over 35 different agencies and several states – and when the Trump administration has tried to stonewall us, we’ve filed 37 lawsuits to enforce our right to get answers from our government.

The results are clear: No one in the Trump administration is immune from accountability. At this point, it’s safe to say American Oversight has a reputation with Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Steve Mnuchin, Mick Mulvaney, and scores of other appointees.

They know – or should know – that if they engage in mischief, we’ll be there to expose it.

Our investigations have forced the administration to hand over tens of thousands of pages of internal emails, memos, text messages, talking points, expense records, and other documents. The paper trail reveals deep problems at the agencies and a swamp that is anything but drained. We’ve revealed:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ calendars showing that she prioritized charter and religious schools over public schools, and that she took more than 11 long weekends in her first six months in office.
  • Emails from the Department of Housing and Urban Development showing that Secretary Ben Carson put his son in charge of planning an official tour of Baltimore – an opportunity that the younger Carson exploited to connect his own business associates with senior officials at his father’s department.
  • Resumes of political appointees at multiple cabinet agencies, showing a disturbing pattern of unqualified, inexperienced, or politically-connected individuals working in senior jobs – including the 24-year-old who became one of our top trade policy officials at a time when the White House was imposing new tariffs and renegotiating NAFTA.
  • Travel records from the Department of the Interior showing that Secretary Ryan Zinke’s wife took an active role in several taxpayer-funded trips, including international travel on military aircraft.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s calendars – which the agency had been trying to keep secret – showing that he was coordinating closely with lobbyists and executives from polluting industries to shape policy decisions.
  • Records proving that Attorney General Sessions lied about his Russian contacts on his security clearance application and sworn statements confirming that President Trump lied in his tweets about being “wiretapped” in Trump Tower by former President Obama.

These records, and hundreds more, are all posted on our website where the public and the press can use them to hold our leaders accountable for their actions – and we’re posting new documents every week.

All of this matters. Scandals do not have to be Watergate to make a difference. Ask the proverbial camel about its load of straw.

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The urgency of our mission has only increased over the past twelve months – and our actions reflect it. Since the beginning of 2018 alone, we have filed over 150 FOIAs and 15 new lawsuits. We are not letting new transgressions slide even in this crazy news environment; Trump and his appointees will be held accountable for their full record of conduct. Our team has grown from five when we launched to more than a dozen today, and we are still growing.

We are also thinking ahead. In the coming weeks, stay tuned for the official launch of American Oversight’s Parallel Investigations Project, an initiative to pursue documents the administration is hiding from Congress. For too long, the Trump administration has benefited from allies in Congress completely abdicating their responsibility to be a check and balance on the president. That failure has serious consequences for our country, and it can’t be allowed to continue.

Ultimately, the lesson of the past year is that oversight still matters. Amid the seemingly endless hail of scandals, personal conflicts, ethics violations, and outright incompetence that this administration delivers on a daily basis, it is more important than ever to call out corruption when and where we see it, to shine a light on misconduct, and to empower the American people to hold our government accountable.

That’s a project that will take all of us working together to uncover the facts and demand answers. If you’re able, please consider supporting our work with a donation, and you can always help by spreading the word about our investigations by following us on Twitter or Facebook or by sharing these posts.