1996 Report to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

March 5, 1997

The Honorable Newt Gingrich
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-6028

Dear Mr. Speaker:

This is the calendar year 1996 annual report of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), filed under 5 U.S.C. § 552(e) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This OGE FOIA report is being submitted to you in duplicate for referral to our two House oversight committees, care of The Honorable Steve Horn, Chairman, Subcommittee on Government Management, House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, and The Honorable Charles Canady, Chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution, House Committee on the Judiciary.

(1) OGE received a total of 35 FOIA requests (including two administrative appeals) during 1996. Of these requests, 14 were granted in full (and OGE reaffirmed one determination in response to a requester's second request), six were granted in part and denied in part, two were denied in full, and eight had no responsive records at all. Also, two requests were referred to other agencies, and one referral was reaffirmed. Finally, OGE consulted with another agency on a FOIA request that it had received for certain OGE documents. The FOIA exemptions upon which OGE based partial or full denials (and the frequency of reliance thereon for each) were as follows: (b)(3) (section 105 of the Ethics in Government Act, 5 U.S.C. app. § 105) (invoked two times); (b)(4) (two times); (b)(5) (five times); (b)(6) (eight times); and (b)(7)(C) (one time).

(2) Two administrative appeals were taken by persons under FOIA subsection (a)(6) during 1996. In one appeal, the initial determination that OGE had no responsive records was upheld. In the other, the denial of access to records, based on FOIA exemptions (b)(5) and (b)(6) was upheld as proper.

(3) The OGE officials responsible for the eight partial or complete denials of requests received by this Agency in 1996 were the General Counsel F. Gary Davis, who handled seven of them, and Deputy General Counsel Marilyn L. Glynn, who handled one. Then OGE Deputy Director Donald E. Campbell handled the first of OGE's two administrative appeal decisions in 1996, upholding the initial determination of no responsive records. The second appeal decision, upholding a denial, was handled later in 1996 by Mr. Davis, who by then was also serving as OGE Deputy Director.

(4) OGE was not involved in any FOIA subsection (a)(4)(F) proceedings in 1996. This Agency was involved in two court cases in 1996 in which OGE's FOIA withholding and other determinations were found to have been proper. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Clinton, 76 F.3d 1232 (D.C. Cir. 1996), affirming 880 F. Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1995) and Schwarz v. OGE, No. 96-0594 (D.C. Cir., per curiam Order filed Oct. 23, 1996), affirming No. 96CV00528 (D.D.C., Memorandum & Order filed Mar. 18, 1996).

(5) OGE did not publish any amendments to its final FOIA rules (as codified at 5 C.F.R. part 2604) during 1996.

(6) OGE's FOIA fee schedule is found at subpart E of 5 C.F.R. part 2604. No FOIA fees were collected by OGE in 1996 for processing the 35 requests it received.

(7) OGE does not have a backlog for processing FOIA requests. This Agency has designated a senior attorney, William E. Gressman, as its FOIA contact person. Other Agency staff also assist in handling OGE's FOIA workload. Both Mr. Gressman and the back-up personnel attend various Justice Department and other FOIA training sessions and meetings from time to time in order to enhance their FOIA skills. Moreover, OGE operates a separate public availability system under the Ethics in Government Act as to SF 278 Public Financial Disclosure Reports filed by high-level executive branch officials subject to Presidential appointment and confirmation by the Senate and certain other records covered by the Ethics Act access provisions. OGE has regulations on fees for voluminous requests for access to such reports under the Ethics Act (see subpart G of 5 C.F.R. part 2604) -- no such fees were collected in 1996.

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If there are any questions about this report, the OGE contact person for this report is Mr. Gressman, who can be reached at 202-208-8000, extension 1110.

Sincerely,

Stephen D. Potts
Director