Earlier this month I made a FOIA request of Rep. Marcy Kaptur to find out the numbers of calls for/against the cap and trade bill.
While I was aware that congressional reps claim constituent communications as confidential, I thought that the numbers of calls was a public record, since revealing the numbers, percentages or ratio does not, in any way whatsoever, reveal who contacted the rep nor their specific communications.
Several others across the nation have made this same request, including Earl who blogs at Kansas Meadowlark and Skip who blogs at GraniteGrok and has a radio show.
Our efforts have not been fruitful. Yesterday I received the type-written response to my request. I received an email copy of the letter over the weekend. The letter denies my request as 1) members of Congress are not subject to FOIA and 2) communications with constituents "are considered confidential and are generally not made public without the constituent's request." Accordingly, Rep. Kaptur "respectfully declines to the produce the information you have requested."
Unlike the other members of Congress who responded, Marcy did not answer my request. My answer came from the U.S. House of Representatives Office of the General Counsel:
So they 'generally' don't give out this information? No confidentiality between a constituent and their representative will be violated if Kaptur tells us how many calls or the percentage/ratio of 'for' and 'against' she got on this issue.
Why doesn't she want us to know?
Congress has again exempted themselves from the laws they impose on others, making FOIA apply to the executive branch of government but not the legislative. Furthermore, how can we hold them accountable to actually represent their district if we cannot ever find out how their district instructs them to vote on specific issues?
Are we just supposed to trust them when they tell us they're doing what we want?
This has to change!