Submitting a FOIA Request

FOIA requests to OGE should generally be in writing (unless made in person) and include the requester's name, address and, preferably, telephone number. The request should reasonably describe the records being sought. OGE can respond to a request for specific records that are releasable to the public quicker than a request for "all information" on a particular subject. Also, any fees for a more specific and limited request are likely to be lower. A request should also contain a statement concerning willingness to pay fees, including any limitations. Unless otherwise stated, filing of a request is deemed to constitute an agreement by the requester to pay all fees up to $25.00. In determining which records are responsive to a request, OGE ordinarily will include only records in OGE's possession and control as of the date its records search begins. If any other date is used, OGE will inform the requester of that date.

OGE does not have a FOIA backlog and usually responds to requests within the 20 working days provided under the law. In appropriate circumstances, expedited processing can be requested. Each year, OGE receives an average of 60 FOIA requests, including several combined FOIA and Privacy Act requests as well as some administrative appeals.

The address for filing of a FOIA request with OGE is: OGE FOIA Officer, Office of Government Ethics, Suite 500, 1201 New York Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20005-3917. OGE will also accept FOIA requests sent to its FAX number at 202-482-9237, or Internet E-mail address: usoge@oge.gov. In addition, OGE has an optional FOIA request format (PDF) that can be filled in, printed, signed and either mailed or FAXed to OGE.

FOIA-Related Fees

FOIA requesters may have to pay fees covering some or all of the costs of processing their requests, unless the fees are waived or reduced. Requesters may want to include in their request letters the maximum dollar amount they are willing to pay (unless otherwise stated, filing of a request is deemed an agreement to pay all applicable fees up to $25.00). If the fees exceed the maximum amount stated, OGE will contact the requester before filling the request. Requesters are generally billed for fees after their requests have been processed (payment must be made before records are provided). However, if total fees are expected to exceed $250.00, or in the case of past nonpayment, OGE may require payment before processing the request. The fees for the various categories of requesters are as follows:

1. Commercial Use Requesters:

  • Search and review time: the salary rate of the employee(s) making the search or review plus 16% (or for homogeneous staff searches, $11.00 per hour for clerical staff and $22.00 per hour for professional staff).
  • Duplication: $0.15 per page.
  • Computer Charges: actual direct cost.
  • Electronic Forms/Formats: direct cost for form/format requested, plus any reproduction fees.
  • Special services such as certifications: actual direct cost.
  • Unproductive searches (no records or exempt records found): will be charged for in accordance with above noted rates.

2. Educational and Noncommercial Scientific Institutions and News Media:

  • Duplication charges at the same rates listed above, with no charge for first 100 pages of duplication (no search or review charges).

3. All Other FOIA Requesters, Including Members of the Public:

  • Search and duplication charges at rates listed above, with no charge for the first two hours of search time and the first 100 pages of duplication (no review charges).

Requesters should not send payment in with their requests but rather wait until billed. They will be billed if the total processing charges exceed $10.00, unless the fees are waived (or reduced) pursuant to OGE's FOIA regulations. OGE does not accept credit card payments or cash. Instead, payment must be made by check or money order payable to the Treasury of the United States.

Appealing a FOIA Determination

There are two ways a requester may contest OGE’s FOIA determination. FOIA provides a requester the right to bring a lawsuit against the agency in an appropriate Federal district court (in OGE's case, in Washington, DC, or where the requester resides or does business) if a request is, after initial request and administrative appeal, denied in whole or in part or if the agency's FOIA determinations are otherwise reviewable. Thus far, OGE has been involved as a party in three FOIA lawsuits. In all three cases, OGE's FOIA determinations were generally upheld.

  • Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Clinton, 76 F.3d 1232 (D.C. Cir. 1996), affirming 880 F. Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1995) (secondary FOIA count -- OGE's partial withholding of documents and determination that some documents were personal, not agency, records found to have been proper)
  • Schwarz v. OGE, No. 96-0594 (D.C. Cir., per curiam Order filed Oct. 23, 1996), affirming No. 96CV00528 (D.D.C., Memorandum & Order filed Mar. 18, 1996) (case dismissed -- OGE had no responsive records)
  • Defenders of Wildlife v. Interior Dept., 314 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2004) (upholding OGE's partial withholding of documents, except for one document subsequently released by another party)

FOIA requesters may also use the mediation services offered by the Office of Government Information Services (“OGIS”) to resolve disputes with OGE as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. The OGIS website is located at: http://www.archives.gov/ogis/. From time to time, OGE also advises and assists the Justice Department and other agencies in FOIA litigation concerning ethics records of other agencies.