The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq., is a federal law that gives the public the right to make a request for federal agency records. All agencies, including the U.S. Office of Government Ethics ("OGE"), are required to disclose records unless the records are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. The FOIA applies only to federal agencies. It does not apply to records held by Congress, the courts, or by state or local government agencies. Each state has its own public access laws that should be consulted for access to state and local records.  The FOIA does not require agencies to conduct research, analyze data, answer written questions, or create records in order to respond to a request.

Finding Information Under FOIA  

OGE is making more information available online to better serve the public. The Electronic Reading Room contains records that have been frequently requested under FOIA (Frequently Requested Records), records encompassing OGE’s policies and procedures, OGE’s administrative staff manuals and instructions, and OGE’s Annual FOIA Reports. OGE, as instructed by the President, is “taking affirmative steps to make information public,” without waiting “for specific requests from the public.” Freedom of Information Act, 74 Fed. Reg. 4683 (Jan. 21, 2009). Because of this, a requester should first examine the contents of the Electronic Reading Room, as some records will be immediately available for download. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A) (2011).

Finally, for general information, the OGE Guide to FOIA & Public Records describes the public information and official records OGE holds. It also explains how to access various agency records, or copies of them, by submitting a FOIA Request.