How business lobby networks shaped the U.S. Freedom of Information Act: An examination of 60 years of congressional testimony

Source: Jeannine E. Relly, Carol B. Schwalbe, Government Information Quarterly, In Press, Available online 6 July 2016
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From the abstract:
The news media and public interest groups pushed hard for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966. Since then, however, a majority of FOIA requests have been filed by business representatives or their lawyers, a phenomenon also observed in other countries that have adopted similar legislation. Although myriad policy networks helped shape the present-day U.S. law, this article focuses on the congressional testimony of business interests in the years leading up to the adoption of the FOIA and the following 50 years, as the legislation reaches its half-century anniversary. The authors undertook this research because business interests are the largest requester group under the FOIA. Their influence has been noted in a small strand of literature, largely related to the courts, in steering the degree to which the public has access to information. This study found that business interests, particularly from the 1980s on, played a key role in shaping the FOIA by decreasing access to government-held information. This is a critical finding, given that the FOIA was adopted to promote the democratic norm of governmental accountability.

Highlights:
• Business and corporate representatives are the majority of U.S. FOIA requesters.
• Business networks, from the 1980s on, played a key role in shaping the FOIA.
• Industry networks lobbying for FOIA amendments represented interests of the time.
• Critical junctures provided policy openings for business shaping the FOIA.

Related:
Businesses have worked to cut ‘public’s right to know’
Source: Mike Chesnick, Futurity, July 8, 2016

….Relly’s and Schwalbe’s study began with a review of paper records of congressional testimony from the 1950s and ’60s at the State Library of Arizona, then progressed to digital records of testimony from that period to this past year.

For 40 of the FOIA’s 50 years, Relly says, “We found clearly that corporations and business organizations—sometimes representing thousands of companies—pressed lawmakers in testimony and behind the scenes to advance legislation that would advantage industries and disadvantage the public.”….