On the cusp of the midterm election, the Biden administration is not releasing information to members of Congress and watchdog groups about how agencies are imposing an executive order for an “all-of-government” effort to “promote voter registration and voter participation.”
This month, another group of House Republicans sought information about Executive Order 14019, “Promoting Access to Voting,” which President Biden signed in March 2021, and a second government watchdog sued to get basic information about plans to implement the order.
“Federal executive agencies, which have no business engaging in voter registration or mobilization efforts, as the EO directs, will surely exceed the scope of their authority under federal law,” said a letter sent Monday by nine Republican House members, led by Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Norman and the other members who signed are seeking the Justice Department’s strategic plan for implementing the order.
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“Moreover, in carrying out this EO, employees of these agencies will likely violate other laws such as the Hatch Act, designed to keep federal agencies, led by political appointees, from engaging in political activities to benefit one political party over another,” the House GOP letter adds.
“In addition, any expenditure of funds by the DOJ to carry out this EO could violate the Antideficiency Act which prohibited executive agencies from spending funds Congress has not authorized or accepting volunteer services from ‘approved’ third-party organizations as EO 14019 directs.”
On Oct. 21, the Justice Department filed a motion in a Florida federal court saying releasing the strategic information would cause “public confusion” because its implementation plan “contains many proposed actions that the public might construe as ‘future commitments, past actions, or provisions already in place.’” The motion was in response to a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Foundation for Government Accountability.
This marks the latest in a string of requests from members of Congress for basic information. In January, 36 House Republicans signed onto a letter to Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, for information about the implementation.
In March, nine ranking members of House committees requested information from Young and Susan Rice, chair of the Domestic Policy Council, about the criteria for approving nonprofit organizations to assist the government in boosting voting and registration.
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“If this effort really is about promoting access to voting, why not share the plans with the American people and the more than 50 members of Congress who have demanded to see it?” Tarren Bragdon, president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, told Fox News Digital.
The Florida-based FGA first sued the Justice Department in April for its information on implementing the plan. A federal court ordered the DOJ to release the records by Sept. 8. But the FGA anticipated more than 5,000 pages of responsive records from the Justice Department and instead got 135 pages, which did not include the department’s 15-page “strategic plan” for implementing the order.
“Clearly, DOJ is doing everything it can to hide this plan. The question is: Why?” Bragdon continued, later adding, “Americans deserve transparency and trust in the outcome of our elections, but this executive order undermines both.”
Earlier this month, America First Legal, a group run by former Trump White House aide Stephen Miller, filed two separate lawsuits against a total of 14 federal agencies in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia under the Freedom of Information Act to find out what the “strategic plans” are for implementing the order.
“The Biden administration appears to be using the levers of bureaucratic power and significant taxpayer resources to promote its radical leftist agenda in elections this fall and beyond,” said Gene Hamilton, vice president and general counsel for America First Legal said in a public statement. “We will uncover their detailed plans and reveal to the American people how their money is being diverted from core governmental functions towards left-wing political causes.”
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According to AFL, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Small Business Administration asserted their documents didn’t exist, according to AFL. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Treasury Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs responded to AFL that the “strategic plans” were privileged and would not be made public.
Spokespersons for these five agencies either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries.
A Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry for this story.
Earlier this week, when fielding questions about Biden’s claims of voter suppression even as early voting numbers are high, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre brought up Biden’s executive order.
“We believe that people should have the fundamental access to voting,” the press secretary said. “As you know, very early in this administration, the president signed an executive order on how he can — what he can do from the federal level to make voting easier for the — for the American people. He did that on the anniversary of Selma, the march that we know the icon John Lewis helped to lead. And he wanted to make sure that he took action and not just words. So, as you know, the president is very attuned to this.”
Biden’s order called for working with social media companies to promote mail-in voting, expanding “multilingual voter registration and election information,” and to get more people to fill out mail-in ballot applications.
The March 2021 executive order seems to have been heavily influenced by a December 2020 policy brief by Demos, a left-wing think tank, as noted by both the FGA and in the first House Republican inquiry.
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The Department of Homeland Security said it will focus on voter registration “at the end of naturalization ceremonies” for immigrants who become citizens. The Department of Education said it will focus on “increasing civic engagement at the elementary school, secondary school and higher education level, helping more than 67 million students.”
The Department of Transportation will promote free transit services for voting, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will work with local public housing authorities on registering residents to vote.