Faced with efforts in Congress to pull the Smithsonian Institution in under the Freedom of Information Act, the institution’s new head told The Associated Press last week he favors maintaining the current status that keeps the museum complex separate from FOIA.
Secretary G. Wayne Clough told The AP the museums must look increasingly toward private donors to supply their budget, and such fundraising could be hard in the FOIA spotlight. Instead, he said, the Smithsonian is revising its transparency policy: "Generally speaking, we’re going to look like a FOIA institution."
Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) introduced a bill in the Senate in July that would require the Smithsonian to adhere to FOIA. Created as a federal trust by Congress, the Smithsonian is not an executive branch agency and courts have held FOIA is inapplicable to it. However, the Smithsonian has been working internally to introduce a policy that is more line with the principles of FOIA, while allowing for its special status as a fundraising institution that receives private donations.