Feb. 5, 2008 · When President Bush released his proposed FY09 budget on Monday, one item was noticeably absent: funding for the job of overseeing all Freedom of Information Act disputes.
The ombudsman position at the National Archives and Records Administration was seen as one of the key provisions of the new FOIA bill, which was passed by Congress last year and signed by the president on Dec. 31.
The president’s decision to eliminate the job at the archives and transfer the responsibility to the Justice Department was met with criticism from supporters of the legislation.
The original sponsors of the measure, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), sent a letter to the president today, arguing that the move created an inherent conflict of interest
“This proposal violates both the explicit text of the OPEN Government Act and its legislative intent,” according the letter. “A primary reason for this intentional separation was to enhance the office’s independence, as well as to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest.”
Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine on Government Initiative, also expressed frustration with the president’s decision. “For the first time, Congress created an independent ombudsman in the federal government to help the public,” he said. “Why quit the experiment after only 35 days?”