CFPB Hit With FOIA Lawsuit After Refusing To Disclose Cost Of Luxe Building Makeover
March 20, 2014 by Ben Bullard
After eight months of trying to get an affirmative response from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the Washington Examiner has filed a lawsuit against the agency for refusing to release financial records relating to the lavish remodel of its Washington, D.C. offices.
The Examiner filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Wednesday with help from nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch. According to Examiner Executive Editor Mark Tapscott, the paper filed the suit because withholding information about how the public’s money is being spent is “exactly the kind of information the FOIA is meant to make available to taxpayers.”
Documents to explain why a government bureau is spending so lavishly on renovations to its headquarters are exactly the kind of information the FOIA is meant to make available to taxpayers.
…We shouldn’t have to go to court to get them, but it’s important to make the point that the American people have just as much of a right to know what CFPB is doing with their tax dollars as they do their local dogcatchers.
The renovation project at CFPB headquarters has more than doubled since it was first announced, ballooning from an estimate of $55 million to $139 million. The Examiner had filed a FOIA last July to request not only financial information relating to the project, but also design documents created by star project architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merill, in hopes of reconciling the scope of the renovation with its escalating cost.
Formed in 2011, the CFPB was created out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, but the agency has been the target of conservative criticism almost from the beginning for its wide-ranging powers and aloofness from the citizens it was tasked with protecting.
“[F]rom its inception, the CFPB has been placed dangerously out of reach of the American people,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton Wednesday. “And it has acted with arrogant indifference to attempts to pierce its veil of obdurate secrecy. This lawsuit could help shed some much-needed light on what is otherwise an essentially covert operation with oppressive control over consumer finances.”