Open Government Advocates Overcome “Gonzales Hold” on FOIA Bill; OPEN Government Act Passes Senate

Contact: Patrice McDermott or Emily Feldman
Phone Number: (202) 332-6736

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2007 — The United States Senate today joined the House in passing bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and address some of the common problems the public encounters when trying to hold the government accountable. The bill passed the Senate unanimously just before the August congressional recess.

Notably, the new law will ensure, after a conference to reconcile provisions between the House and Senate versions, that FOIA requestors who are forced to litigate to obtain records from the government will be eligible to recover their attorneys’ fees if the government releases the documents prior to a judicial order. The law as passed will also ensure that nonprofits and new media, such as bloggers, will be entitled to News-Media status for purposes of fee waivers.

Patrice McDermott, director of, a coalition of more than 65 organizations committed to promoting greater openness and accountability in the government, said. “This bill restores the intent of Congress that the public should have access to the information of and about its government without having to endure arbitrary and capricious delays and roadblocks. We laud Senators Leahy and Cornyn for their persistence in bringing this bill to passage.”

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed similar legislation during Sunshine Week in March 2007. It was held up for months in the Senate by a hold placed by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, acting on behalf of the Justice Department. After pressure from the public and multiple editorials that assailed the Senator’s position and nicknamed him “the Secrecy Senator,” including several in the Arizona Republic, Kyl’s staff this week negotiated new compromise language and allowed the bill to reach the floor.