Zinke puts a political ally in charge of the Interior Department's FOIA requests

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests help maintain government transparency and accountability when it comes to environmental law (and just about everything else). But U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has quietly put a political appointee in charge of responding to his department's FOIA requests, possibly as a way to stem the tide of scandal rocking Zinke's tenure. Daniel Jorjani (a former Koch brothers advisor, because, of course) will now oversee all public information requests concerning the Interior Department—on topics ranging from oil rig leasing to Endangered Species Act rollbacks to the ethics investigations into his boss. FOIA requests aren’t just for the press: They often serve as evidence in critical lawsuits that fight for environmental and public health. Zinke says the reorganization will help streamline an unprecedented number of FOIA requests, but there is reason for concern. In a March 2017 internal email, Jorjani told his staff that “at the end of the day [their] job is to protect the Secretary” (instead of, say, the environment or the American people).

UPDATE: To make matters worse, on December 31, 2018, the Interior Department tacked on a suggested a rule change that would relax FOIA response times for the agency and require those requesting documents to be more specific—more changes that will hamper transparency. 


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