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Obama admin spent record amount of money fighting FOIA lawsuits

A new analysis from The Associated Press found that former President Barack Obama’s administration spent a record amount of money fighting Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

In his final year in office, former President Barack Obama’s administration spent a record $36.2 million defending itself from Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, according to a new Associated Press analysis.

When the money is broken down, the AP found that the biggest chunks were spent by the Justice Department ($12 million), the Department of Homeland Security ($6.3 million) and the Pentagon ($4.8 million).

The Obama administration also denied access to requested documents and information more than any previous administration. The AP report revealed that Obama's government “set a record for times federal employees told citizens, journalists and others that, despite searching, they couldn’t find a single page of files that were requested.”

The news wire also concluded that the Obama administration set the record for “outright denial of access” to files by refusing to quickly consider requests described as “newsworthy.”

The AP offered this critique of Obama’s oft-repeated promise to be “the most transparent administration in history”:

The figures reflect the final struggles of the Obama administration during the 2016 election to meet President Barack Obama's pledge that it was "the most transparent administration in history," despite wide recognition of serious problems coping with requests under the information law. It received a record 788,769 requests for files last year and spent a record $478 million answering them and employed 4,263 full-time FOIA employees across more than 100 federal departments and agencies. That was higher by 142 such employees the previous year.

While control of the executive branch has changed parties, it does not necessarily mean more transparency is on the way.

President Donald Trump  has not spoken much about government transparency. And last week, several journalists criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for deciding to travel to Asia this week without a press pool to document his stops in Japan, South Korea and China.

CNN’s Jake Tapper described the decision as “insulting to any American who is looking for anything but a state-run version of events.”

The Washington, D.C., bureau chiefs at CNN, the Washington Post, Fox News, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR and others wrote in a letter to Tillerson’s staff that they were “deeply concerned” about the secretary of state choosing to ditch the media.

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