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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Former US President no friend of FOI

Summer Blog

The death of former US President Gerald Ford (1974-1976), has prompted surprisingly positive reflections on his brief period in office, perhaps reflecting the fact that he helped right the ship after the Watergate scandal led to Nixon's resignation. There is no question Ford was decent and honest - values that have struck quite a chord of nostalgia in the US in 2007.

Another aspect of his presidency was that he (like Nixon before him) was also caught up in an ongoing battle with Congress over the exercise of power. Ford vetoed 66 bills passed by Congress in his 25 months in office, a rate that constitutes a record.

One of his vetoes involved rejection of significant amendments to the US FOI Act in 1974, acting on the advice of then key advisers, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Their appetite for openness hasn't changed much in the interim. As Vice President, Cheney has been resisting attempts to obtain documents about discussions with oil and engergy companies, and is seen as the dark force behind much of the Bush policy agenda.

Congress felt strongly enough about the changes in 1974 to override Ford's veto with a combined two thirds vote of both houses of Congress.

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