For Immediate Release:
February 27, 2015

Contact:
Craig Richardson
Richardson@eelegal.org
202-758-8301

Following Rep. Grijalva Inspiration, E&E Legal Files FOIA Requests with Georgia Tech, Universities of Colorado and Arizona Seeking Records Relating to Researchers’ Funding

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), in conjunction with the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FMELC) filed state freedom of information requests with Georgia Tech University and the Universities of Colorado and Arizona, seeking records relating to three researchers’ funding and applicable conflicts policies.

Specifically, the record requests ask for documents describing the universities’ policy or policies relating to disclosure applying to the individuals; records in the universities’ possession relating to outside funding, grants, or other contributions made to support their work at these state schools; records involving their outside funding, including consulting fees, promotional considerations, speaking fees, honoraria, travel expenses, salary and other compensation or monies given to the researchers which did not originate with the universities; financial disclosure forms in which the researchers list the university or the State as their affiliation; and records reflecting their total annual compensation for each year at the university.

Those who have followed recent news reports may notice that these requests were inspired by and even replicated the requests that U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) made to seven universities, including two of these three schools. The day before, E&E Legal and FME Law, joined by Delaware public interest group the Caesar Rodney Institute, sent a similar request to the University of Delaware, also targeted by Grijalva’s demand. In his letters, Congressman Grijalva notes that the “disclosure of a few key pieces of information will establish the impartiality of climate research and policy recommendations published in your institute’s name…

[C]onflicts should be clear to stakeholders, including policymakers who use scientific information to make decisions.” Although the universities responding to Rep. Grijalva is discretionary, processing open records requests is not.

“We appreciate Congressman Grijalva’s rhetoric about the importance of disclosure and transparency, certainly as a condition that comes with working at these taxpayer-funded institutions” said Chris Horner, E&E Legal Senior Legal Fellow and the attorney who filed the requests on behalf of the three organizations. “His insistence that the Constitution compels him to demand these records — citing to no authority for why the universities should provide them — so moved us that we followed in his footsteps, if in our case by proceeding under state laws.”

It is possible that Representative Grijalva assumes that congressional letterhead carries authority to insist such demands be satisfied. Regardless, E&E Legal and FME Law appreciate the Congressman’s enthusiasm that the University dedicate itself to producing such records.

The groups far more narrowly tailor the period of time covered by their requests, otherwise modeled after Rep. Grijalva’s nearly verbatim (also changing of course the parties whose records are involved, which we are confident is not material to whether records should be released despite past insistence by Greenpeace that open records requests should indeed be treated differently depending on a requester’s “objectives”). The requesters look forward to these universities taking to heart Rep. Grijalva’s embrace of transparency, and satisfying the requests made pursuant to state statute which implement their legislatures’ determination that it is critical that these public records be available for open-records requesters.

“We have followed Rep. Grijalva’s footsteps for our requests, and we look forward to these state schools complying,” concludes Horner. “Contrary to suggestions we have heard, we also are confident that these schools will not seek to impose financial barriers in the path of those of us proceeding under the state laws enacted for precisely this purpose, in pursuit of the same end described with such flourish by Rep. Grijalva.”

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The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation, policy research, and public education on important energy and environmental issues. Primarily through its petition litigation and transparency practice areas, E&E Legal seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.

The Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FME Law) provides litigation and research services to qualified clients. We concentrate on cases involving landmark free-market pro-environmental litigation; use of open records and data quality laws to force greater governmental accountability and transparency; and, cases that allow the Clinic to help create the next generation of free market oriented attorneys.