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

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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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-416
Number of pages13
JournalGovernment Information Quarterly
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

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freedom of information
lobby
testimony
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open channel
anniversary
public interest
interest group
lawyer
news
responsibility
Law
present

Keywords

  • Business lobby
  • Democratic accountability
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • Government information policy
  • Policy networks
  • Stakeholders
  • Transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Law

Cite this

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