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Freedom of Information Act

Introduction

The following information is an overview of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process at the FEC and is provided solely as informal guidance. The FOIA is codified at Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552. The FEC’s implementing regulations of the FOIA are located at 11 CFR Part 4. For more comprehensive information on FOIA, you should refer to the statute and to the regulations. Should any information contained within this overview conflict with the law or the agency’s regulations implementing FOIA, the language of the statute and of the regulations govern.

FOIA provides individuals with the right to obtain access to federal executive branch agency records, except to the extent that those records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three exclusions.

The nine exemptions are:

For more information on the FOIA exemptions and exclusions see, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b) and 11 CFR § 4.5.

Access to Certain FEC Records Without A FOIA Request

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is a disclosure agency. The Commission therefore routinely places numerous categories of records on the public record. The following documents are included within the categories of records routinely made publicly available:

Members of the public may request any matters of public record through the Commission’s Public Records Office at 202-694-1120.

Representatives of the media may request matters of public record through the FEC Press Office at 202-694-1220.

Because these records are made publicly available pursuant to other statutory provisions, we generally will not process these requests under FOIA. To obtain information that is not routinely available, you must file a FOIA Request.

FOIA Documents and E-FOIA Reading Room

The Commission’s FOIA Reading Room is located within the Public Records Office on the first floor of the FEC building at 999 E Street, NW in Washington, DC. The reading room maintains an archive of completed compliance actions, alternative dispute resolution and administrative fines cases; litigation and audit reports; advisory opinion requests, public comments and final opinions; Commission memoranda, bulletins and directives; FEC newsletters and annual reports; press releases; federal register notices, public comments on proposed rulemakings, public hearing documents; Explanations and Justifications; and sunshine notices, agenda, agenda documents, minutes and audio tapes of past Commission meetings. The Public Records Office is open daily during normal business hours for public inspection and photocopying.

The following information is available in the Commission’s Electronic FOIA Reading Room on this website for easy public accessibility.

Additional Information

Making a FOIA Request

Under FOIA, you may request access to records held by the Federal Election Commission. However, FOIA does not require the FEC to do research for you, to analyze data, to answer written questions, or to create records in response to a request. When making a FOIA request, you must comply with the FEC regulations implementing the FOIA, which are found at 11 CFR Part 4. In addition, all requests must be in writing.

In order for the FEC to efficiently process your FOIA request, include the following information in your request:

(For your information a sample FOIA request letter is provided.)

Where to Send a FOIA Request

You may submit your FOIA request by mail, fax, or e-mail to:

Federal Election Commission
Attn: FOIA Requester Service Center
Room 408
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463

Fax number:
(202) 219-1043

Electronic mail address:
FOIA@fec.gov

Fees

FOIA allows agencies to charge fees for their research and reproduction services under certain conditions. For more specific information on how the Commission will assess fees for FOIA requests, please refer to 11 CFR § 4.9. Also, note that each FOIA request should specify the amount of FOIA fees the requestor is willing to pay. If the Commission estimates that search or duplication charges are likely to exceed $25.00, it will notify the requestor of the estimated amount of the fee before completing the search unless the requestor has indicated in advance a willingness to pay a fee as high as that estimated by the Commission.

If you believe that you qualify for a waiver or reduction in the fee payment under the provisions of the FOIA, you must state this in writing in your initial request. You must provide the FEC with the specific reasons why the fees should be waived or reduced. For more information on waiver of fees, refer to 11 CFR § 4.9(b).

Time for Response

The FEC will endeavor to respond to your request within twenty (20) business days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) from the date the FOIA Service Center receives your request and will determine whether to disclose or deny the records sought based on the FOIA. As mentioned above, there are nine statutory FOIA exemptions that authorize the withholding of information in certain specific circumstances. If the FEC withholds information requested in whole or in part, the response you receive will:

If you need a response to your request before twenty business days, you may request expedited processing of your FOIA request. See 11 CFR 4.7(g). You must certify in writing that there is a compelling need for such processing. Examples of compelling need include: an imminent threat to someone’s life of physical safety and a member of the media’s urgent need to inform the public of some actual or alleged Federal government activity. Your statement indicating a compelling need must certify that your reasons are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief. The FEC Requester Service Center will notify you of its decision to expedite your request within ten days after receiving your request. If your request to expedite is granted, the FEC will process your request as soon as practicable. If your request to expedite is denied, you have the right to administratively appeal the denial to the Commission.

Contact / Questions

The Commission's Chief FOIA Officer is Gregory R. Baker. The Commission's FOIA Public Liaison is Katie Higginbothom.

If you have questions about the status of a FOIA request, please contact:

FOIA Requester Service Center
Federal Election Commission
Attn: Candace Salley
Room 408
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463

If you still have questions after contacting the Service Center, please contact the FEC's FOIA Public Liaison, Katie Higginbothom.

Federal Election Commission
FOIA Public Liaison
Katie Higginbothom
Room 402
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463
(202) 694-1650

Feedback

We are continually assessing and trying to improve our compliance with FOIA. If you would like to share any compliments, comments, or concerns, or if you have any suggestions for improving our FOIA process, please provide feedback to the FOIA Requester Service Center at FOIA@fec.gov.

Please provide the following information:

Sample FOIA Request Letter

Date

Federal Election Commission
Attn: FOIA Requester Service Center
Room 408
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463

Re: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

Dear Sir / Madam:

This is a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act [or Privacy Act]. I am requesting records created or dated between the dates of ______ and ______. Specifically, I am requesting documents that relate to ____.

For the purposes of determining what, if any, fees may be assessed in connection with the processing of this request, I am [choose the appropriate category below:]

  • requesting the records for commercial use;
  • affiliated with an educational or noncommercial scientific institution requesting records for a scholarly or scientific purpose and not for commercial use;
  • a representative of the news media requesting records as part of a newsgathering effort. I am affiliate with ___;
  • an individual seeking information for personal use and not for commercial use.

I am willing to pay fees for this request up to a maximum of $____. Please inform me if the estimated fees will exceed this limit before processing my request.

[Optional] I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to the public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily my commercial interest. [Include a specific explanation.]

If you have any questions regarding this request, my daytime telephone number is ___. My email address is ____. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

_________________
Your name
Your street address
Your city, state, and zip code.