Of course FOIA requests skyrocketed when Trump took office

Remember, kids. Democracy dies in darkness. But what the Washington Post’s catchphrase leaves unsaid is that no one is likely to notice the death if they don’t bother turning the lights on.

At least for those of us who have to write about Washington politics on a regular basis, this story from the Free Beacon probably won’t come as much of a surprise. The liberal press has been up in arms ever since Donald Trump’s inauguration over how they have to provide proper oversight, ask all the right questions and nail down the most reliable sources. But have they always been this diligent?

Not so much… at least when it comes to the differences between the media’s behavior during the Obama and Trump administrations. One good measure of this can be found in the frequency with which they generated Freedom of Information Act requests, and that’s particularly true of the media’s interest in the Environmental Protection Agency. The Free Beacon looks at the number of these requests the EPA received over the past six years and the differences are more than stark. Let’s take a look at their report and then we’ll revisit some of our own reporting here from last year that should solve this mystery.

The number of Freedom of Information Act requests the Environmental Protection Agency received from mainstream outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post spiked immediately after Republican President Donald Trump took office, according to a Free Beacon analysis of FOIA requests by the media from 2013 to the present.

The figures, obtained through the government’s FOIA online database, reveal a clear increase in requests for information from the agency once Trump was elected president.

The New York Times, for example, made just 13 FOIA requests during the four years of Obama’s second term, sending 3 in 2013, 1 in 2014, 7 in 2015, and 2 in 2016. The number of FOIA requests the Times sent for Obama’s entire second term was nearly quadrupled in the first year of Trump’s presidency alone, when the Times sent 59 FOIA requests to the EPA.

Aside from simple, pervasive bias, can you propose any other explanation to explain this disparity? The New York Times made 100 FOIA requests to the EPA in the first two years of Trump’s presidency, as compared to thirteen during the final four years of Obama’s. The Washington Post has been taking things a little slower, sending 43 FOIA requests to the agency since January of 2017. Care to guess how many they sent during Obama’s second term? One. One single request in four years.

But we already had plenty of proof of this before this latest report was compiled, and it comes from a story we were covering heavily all through the first half of 2018. Do you remember the endless media stories about the “scandal” surrounding Scott Pruitt and his trip to the G7 in Italy when he was the EPA boss? The Washington Post ran a breathless headline describing how Pruitt and his security detail ran up more than $30,000 in bills for that meeting. In that article, they also had a quote from someone criticizing Pruitt’s itinerary, saying that a visit to the Vatican made it look more like a vacation than business travel.

After submitting some requests of my own to the EPA, we learned something remarkable. In 2015, while Barack Obama was in charge, his EPA boss Gina McCarthy had made the exact same trip to the G7 and her detail ran up a bill of $56,192… nearly double what Pruitt’s team spent. Oh, and they also went to the Vatican and met with precisely the same officials there for the same reasons. The few reports of the trip that showed up in the media only mentioned that McCarthy was there and discussing the important subject of climate change. The cost of the trip never came up.

While we’re on the subject, during that same year, McCarthy and her team also racked up bills of $41,320 to travel to Paris, $90,367 (!) going to Dubai and $67,702 to fly to Tokyo. Each and every one of those trips cost a lot more than Pruitt’s trip to the G7. During the comparable period in 2018, Pruitt’s team made a total of two trips for a vastly lower amount of money. For the record, as you can read in the linked article from last year, McCarthy’s predecessor under Obama, Lisa Jackson, also hit the road fairly often. Her journeys included one trip to China that ran up a staggering $155,763 tab.

So where was all the reporting of this during the Obama administration? There wasn’t any. And that’s because, as this list of FOIA requests shows, the New York Times and the Washington Post never asked. What was described as a huge scandal during the Trump administration was simply not of interest to the MSM back in the good old days. Why ask pesky questions while Obama is in office if people might not like the answers? Better to let sleeping dogs lie, right?