Sunday, October 23, 2016

FOIA, Trump/Clinton, and you.

This campaign cycle we have been hearing comments from the presidential candidates and their surrogates saying the media coverage is rigged or efforts by a non-profit organization is a "right-wing" conspiracy against them.  Such entities like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Judicial Watch are using public record laws to look into Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's past.

Holding individuals who want to lead the nation accountable is a fundamental thing to do.  This is why efforts using state and federal freedom of information laws has been under attack, it makes the candidates and their operations uncomfortable to answer the questions which the documents raise.

Nevertheless, you can also use the tools of freedom of information laws on a local and state level.  In Minnesota, it is known as the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.  Now I do not expect the reader of this post to read the law (linked above) and do a data request.  There are easier ways to understand the law and your rights to lift the veils of secrecy of government.

How to request information from a agency or entity of a local or state government:

The Information Policy Analysis Division which is part of the Minnesota Department of Administration offers the above suggestion.  They also offer advice  with a model letter how to ask for information from the government.

A simple letter by a citizen to a government agency can cause government and what it does to be exposed and ingenuous.  This is an example which I did in September of 2013.

"Pursuant to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act I wish to inspect and review all government data about the cell phone location tool known as the (Kingfish) including, but not limited to, such items as protocols, procedures, legal thresholds, Attorney opinions, evaluations, correspondence, and results of use."

This elementary request for public data sent off responses that found an agency lying to the public and the Minnesota Legislature about "StingRay."

To hold accountable government is just like holding candidates answerable who want to run for the highest elected office in the land.