By Avoiding Transparency Requirements, Kushner-Led Office Blocks Critical Information From Public View Including Potential Financial Conflicts
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward and Food & Water Watch filed a lawsuit against the Office of American Innovation (OAI) for attempting to skirt federal transparency laws as OAI takes a prominent role in shaping the Trump Administration’s infrastructure policy. By avoiding disclosure requirements, the Jared-Kushner-led entity prevents the public from seeing critical information, including information that would reveal whether OAI’s policy-making was improperly influenced by the Administration’s conflicts of interest.
Since its formation in March 2017, OAI has played a major role in crafting President Trump’s infrastructure plan, building on advice given by the President’s disbanded Infrastructure Council, which also had been operating in violation of federal transparency laws. The suit asserts that the wide-ranging powers exercised by OAI require it adhere to the Freedom of Information Act requirement that agencies—including those within the Executive Office of the President such as the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy—comply with public requests for information. To date, OAI has refused to acknowledge such requests, let alone produce documents in response.
“The public deserves to know what Jared Kushner is doing with their taxpayer dollars, and whether he designed an infrastructure plan that would enrich his former business partners and friends,” said Anne Harkavy, Executive Director of Democracy Forward. “Kushner’s group appears to be skirting transparency rules that would let the public see what it is doing. Now it’s time to let some sunlight into this black box.”
“This administration would rather govern from the shadows, so we’re taking it to the courts,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Without transparency, we’ll never know for sure the extent to which Trump and Kushner are enriching their friends at our expense. Their plans are a giveaway to Wall Street, while our infrastructure crumbles—including our critical aging drinking water systems. We are in dire need of public investment, not privatization schemes.”
The foundation of the Administration’s newly announced infrastructure proposal is based on an undisclosed 70-page set of “ principles” compiled by OAI. In addition, OAI officials have held closed-door negotiations with private business interests. Despite its active participation in developing White House policy and the extensive potential conflicts of its senior officials, including Kushner and Reed Cordish, OAI has refused to shed any light on critical details involving the development of the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan.
The new suit is part of the groups’ Infrastructure Accountability Initiative, a series of actions designed to hold the Trump Administration accountable for an infrastructure plan that is poised to enrich President Trump’s inner circle.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.