The U.S. State Department and three other federal agencies must produce records showing whether they have communicated with nine media outlets, including Fox News and Breitbart News, Democracy Forward Foundation said in a complaint.
The agencies’ failure to respond to Democracy Forward Foundation’s requests for information violates the Freedom of Information Act, the non-profit organization told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Feb. 25.
Democracy Forward Foundation describes itself as an organization that “works to promote transparency and accountability in government, in part, by educating the public on government actions and policies.”
The complaint alleges FOIA violations by the Small Business Administration, Treasury Department, and Department of Homeland Security, as well as the State Department.
“As a matter of practice, the agency complies with all FOIA requests,” Jim Billimoria of the Small Business Administration said.
“The documents in question here were in the process of being gathered and will be provided to the requestor shortly. While SBA was not contacted by the requestor in advance of the complaint being filed, we have since consulted with them. Given that this is simply a timing issue, SBA anticipates that this will be resolved in the next few days,” Billimoria told Bloomberg Law.
The other agencies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A report in November 2018 by The Daily Beast said a Fox & Friends news anchor read a script bolstering the Trump Administration’s policy agenda that the Environmental Protection Agency expressly approved, the complaint says.
These actions raised concerns about possible violations of a propaganda prohibition. Democracy Forward Foundation submitted FOIA requests to determine how widespread these practices are, the complaint says.
The agencies have failed to respond sufficiently to information requests, the complaint says.
The requests sought all records containing or documenting communications between Fox News, Breitbart News Network, CRTV.com, The Blaze, NewsMax, Daily Caller, Daily Wire, One America News, and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The case is Democracy Forward Found. v. U.S. Dep’t of State, D.D.C., No. 19-459, complaint 2/25/19.
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(Updated with comments from the SBA.)