Update: Jan. 13, 5:42 p.m.: A spokesman for Sen. Marshall said he plans to introduce the “Financial Accountability for Uniquely Compensated Individuals (FAUCI) ACT, which requires the public access of financial disclosures on the official Office of Government Ethics (OGE) website for administration officials like Dr. Fauci. The FAUCI Act would also provide a list of all confidential filers within the government whose financial disclosures are not public.”
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, seems to think Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, is keeping his personal finances secret.
“Yes or no, would you be willing to submit to Congress and the public a financial disclosure that includes your past and current investments?” Marshall asked in a congressional hearing Tuesday. “Our office cannot find them.”
But Marshall was mistaken. Fauci discloses his finances every year, as required by law. I obtained the disclosure in 2020. (You can read it here.) Marshall’s staff – and anyone else who wants it – can get it by asking for it. Marshall even has the advantage of assistance from the roughly 200 executive branch offices that aim to help legislators get information they need.
“You’re so misinformed; it’s extraordinary,” Fauci said. He was later heard to call Marshall a “moron.”
But Marshall was right about something else. “This is a huge issue,” he told Fauci. “You see things before members of Congress would see them.” He’s correct: The American people deserve to know their public servants are working for the good of the country — not their own pocketbooks. That’s why we have transparency laws like the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which requires Fauci’s disclosure.
And Marshall was also right in implying that it’s not the easiest thing to find. Here’s how I did it:
- I confirmed the exact name of the form I was seeking by perusing the Office of Government Ethics website, which also informed me that agencies, not the OGE, store the disclosures of their senior career officials. (Presidential appointee disclosures, on the other hand, are posted on OGE’s site.)
- I emailed the Department of Health and Human Services. An employee there told me to email the National Institute of Health Freedom of Information office with a completed request form, the OGE form 201. So I did.
- When no one had responded to my request a month later, I politely badgered the NIH office via email.
I first asked the NIH for Fauci’s disclosure on May 18, 2020 and didn’t receive it until Aug. 5. The NIH also chose to give the disclosure to me under the Freedom of Information Act, which they didn’t need to do and caused the document to be partially redacted. (Though most of the information about Fauci’s income, gifts and investments in 2019 is still there for all to see.) They did not respond to my questions, then or now, about why they did that.
The Center for Public Integrity is no stranger to fighting to get public documents. We politely badger government officials pretty much every day. We also sue — a lot — and have won many, many times.
Transparency organization Open the Books also asked for Fauci’s disclosure, but they did so as part of broader Freedom of Information requests. When they didn’t get it, the conservative group Judicial Watch took up their cause and sued.
It doesn’t need to be this difficult to obtain documents that the law gives the public the right to see. Congress could change this by requiring agencies to preemptively post the financial disclosures of high-level career officials like Fauci, as the government does for political appointees and senators. (Marshall was 17 months late in filing some of his own stock disclosures.)
We would love it if our fights for public documents were easier. And we’d love it if the NIH and other agencies had the money and manpower to speed up their response times. I asked for Fauci’s 2020 disclosure Tuesday. (His 2021 disclosure is not yet due.) No response yet.
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