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Freedom of Information Act and Government Transparency

Meaningful citizen participation depends on the public’s ability to access information. Throughout our 40 years, Public Citizen Litigation Group has worked to increase government transparency, litigating more significant open government cases than any firm or organization in the country. Today, we continue to assist a wide variety of organizations, community groups, journalists, academics, and other individuals seeking to obtain information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other open government laws.

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Learn How to File a FOIA Request

Congress enacted FOIA in 1966 to give the public access to information held by the federal government. The Act gives any person the right to request and receive access to any document, file, or other record in the possession of any federal government agency, subject to exemptions. FOIA was designed to be relatively simple to use. As a result, you can file a request and can appeal request denials within the agency without legal representation.

The federal FOIA does not apply to records held by state and local government officials, but many states have laws that provide public access to records of state and local government bodies upon request.

Request Legal Assistance in Pursuing Your FOIA Request

Individuals, community groups, and organizations everywhere rely on information – data, reports, policy statements, or other records – held by the government. If you would like to request assistance on a FOIA-related matter, contact us at Please include in your e-mail:

  • Your name and contact information;
  • A short description of the documents you seek;
  • The name of the agency that you believe has the documents;
  • What steps, if any, you have taken to gain access to the documents; and
  • If you have already filed a FOIA request, a description of the agency's response. 
Information and resources on FOIA are provided by the Freedom of Information Clearinghouse, a project of Public Citizen Litigation Group and funded in part by a grant from the Center for the Study of Responsive Law.

Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation


Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.


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