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Americans for Limited Government On Request for Inspection of Records.

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Released: September 30, 2011

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-144

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)

AMERICANS FOR LIMITED GOVERNMENT
)
FOIA Control No. 2011-093
)
On Request for Inspection of Records
)

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Adopted: September 29, 2011

Released: September 30, 2011

By the Commission:

I.

INTRODUCTION

1.
By this memorandum opinion and order, we deny the application for review of Americans
for Limited Government (ALG),1 seeking review of the Office of General Counsel's (OGC's)2 denial of
ALG's request for a waiver of the fees for processing its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.3
We find that OGC correctly applied the standards for determining ALG's entitlement to a fee waiver.

II.

BACKGROUND

2.
In its FOIA request, ALG seeks records that "pertain to communications to or from any
Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or their immediate staff and the
following [nine] individuals."4 ALG asserted that it should be granted a waiver of fees for processing its
request because the information sought "will be used to better the public's understanding of how the FCC
is spending the taxpayers' money."5 ALG also indicated that it regularly publishes information on the
activities, structure, and operations of the Federal Government and that the request is not in its
commercial interest.6
3.
OGC found7 that ALG had not satisfied the statutory test for entitlement to a fee waiver,
which permits a waiver only "if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely
to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is


1 See Appellant Americans for Limited Government's Freedom of Information Act Appeal Regarding Denial of
Request for Fee Waiver, filed January 28, 2011 (AFR).
2 See Letter from Joel Kaufman, Associate General Counsel to William Wilson (Dec. 29, 2010) (Decision).
3 See e-mail from William Wilson to FOIA@fcc.gov (Dec. 7, 2010) (Request).
4 See Request at 1.
5 See id. at 4.
6 See id.
7 See Decision at 2.

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-144

not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester."8 OGC found that ALG had provided only
"broad speculation" that its request would contribute to the public understanding of the operations or
activities of the government, rather than demonstrating specifically how its request would contribute to
public understanding, as required by the statute.
4.
In its application for review, ALG reiterates its claim that its request would contribute
significantly to public understanding of the government. ALG provides further details about the
information it requests. ALG explains that the nine individuals are affiliated with "internet giant" Google
and that records sought relate to how Google has influenced the Commission in writing regulations
concerning the Internet.9 ALG further explains that its staff will analyze the responsive documents
provided and publish its findings in various media.10 ALG emphasizes that it does not have a commercial
interest in the requested information.11

III.

DISCUSSION

5.
We agree with OGC that ALG failed to meet the statutory standard for entitlement to a fee
waiver. The facts of this case resemble those we recently considered in National Legal and Policy
Center
.12 The requester there sought information about contacts between several individuals and the
Commission and asserted that the information requested would show the individuals' influence on the
Commission's Open Internet website and on media and communications policy. We found that the
requester had not provided a reasonably detailed and specific explanation of how the request would
contribute significantly to the public's understanding of the operation or activities of the government,
inasmuch as it failed to provide information beyond mere speculation that the information requested
would show significant influence on government policy.13 We noted that it was not sufficient for the
requester to merely restate its organizational mission or rely on speculation.14
6.
If anything, ALG offered less by way of detailed explanation than the requester in NLPC.
As OGC explained in its Decision:
ALG provides no information as to the affiliations of these [nine listed]individuals, the
subject matter of the communications sought, or why these communications have any
particular significance that would contribute significantly to public understanding of the
operations of activities of the government.[Footnote omitted.] Individuals routinely
communicate with the Commission on a wide variety of issues for a wide variety of
reasons. Much of this dialog is reflected in the public record associated with the various
proceedings pending before the Commission.[Footnote omitted.] ALG attributes no
specific significance to communications by these individuals and apparently assumes that
any communication between the Commission and an outside party might potentially


8 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(A)(iii); see also 47 C.F.R. 0.470(e) (criteria for granting a fee waiver).
9 See AFR at 8.
10 See id. at 10.
11 See id. at 11-12.
12 26 FCC Rcd 8001 (2011) (NLPC).
13 See NLPC, 26 FCC Rcd at 8004-05 9-10.
14 See id. at 8004 8.
2

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 11-144

contribute to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government. Such
broad speculation is insufficient to support a request for fee waiver.[Footnote omitted.]15
We give no weight to the additional facts set forth in ALG's application for review but not provided to
OGC in ALG's Request. Our rules provide that: "No application for review will be granted if it relies on
questions of fact or law upon which the designated authority has been afforded no opportunity to pass."16
We will therefore not rely on factual justification presented in the application for review that was not
before OGC. We accordingly affirm OGC's Decision for the reasons stated by OGC.17

IV.

ORDERING CLAUSE

7.
ACCORDINGLY, IT IS ORDERED, that Appellant Americans for Limited Government's
Freedom of Information Act Appeal Regarding Denial of Request for Fee Waiver IS DENIED. ALG
may seek judicial review of this action, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B).18
8.
The officials responsible for this action are the following: Chairman Genachowski and
Commissioners Copps, McDowell, and Clyburn.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary


15 See Decision at 2.
16 See 47 C.F.R. 1.115(c).
17 Because ALG failed to show how disclosure of the documents it sought would likely contribute significantly to
public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, OGC properly declined to reach additional
requirements for a fee waiver, such as to whether and how ALG plans to publicize any material it receives or
whether it has a commercial interest in its request.
18 We note that as part of the Open Government Act of 2007, the Office of Government Information Services
(OGIS) was created to offer mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies as
a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. Using OGIS services does not affect ALG's right to pursue litigation. ALG
may contact OGIS in any of the following ways:
Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road - Room 2510
College Park, MD 20740-6001
E-mail: ogis@nara.gov
Telephone: 301-837-1996
Facsimile: 301-837-0348
Toll-free: 877-684-6448.
3

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