Bill Would End FOIA Shield for Smithsonian

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A longtime critic of the Smithsonian Institution introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate this week that would wipe out the national museum complex's exemption from the Freedom of Information Act and the Sunshine Act.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, would require the Smithsonian to hold meetings in public and make records available to the public upon request.

The Smithsonian, created by Congress as a federal trust, was exempted from FOIA in two rulings in the mid-1990s. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided FOIA would apply to the Smithsonian only if Congress changed the law to say so explicitly.

Grassley said the legislation marks a major test for the Smithsonian's pledge of transparency and the newly installed secretary, G. Wayne Clough, former president of Georgia Tech. A spokeswoman declined to say what Clough thinks of the proposal.

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