Swami Goldberg takes a turn as Witness Goldberg.

FHH attorney Kevin M. Goldberg – you may know him as the Swami – doffed his seer gear recently and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s the United States Senate, thank you very much. The occasion was a hearing entitled “We the People: Fulfilling the Promise of Open Government Five Years After The OPEN Government Act”. The general topic:  implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) five years after the OPEN Government Act was signed into law. (The OPEN Government Act was the product of efforts by Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy and fellow Committee Member John Cornyn.)

Kevin testified on behalf of the American Society of News Editors and the Sunshine in Government Initiative. In his testimony he reviewed provisions of the Open Government Act that have worked and those that have not; he also addressed the Obama Administration’s faithful implementation of that law and the requirements of the FOIA generally. 

He made five specific recommendations for further amendments to the FOIA: 

Strengthen the Office of Government Information Services, also known as “OGIS” but informally referred to by many as the “FOIA Ombudsman”, by increasing its funding and its independent authority to hold other agencies accountable;

Hold OGIS itself accountable, requiring it to exercise its advisory opinion power to create a record that FOIA requesters themselves can use to hold agencies accountable; 

Hold all governmental officials individually accountable by making information disclosure a part of every federal government employee’s overall performance review;

Codify the disclosure-friendly standard previously described by Attorney General Eric Holder in a March, 2009 memorandum. Under that standard, information should only be withheld from disclosure if foreseeable harm would result from the information’s disclosure;

Save taxpayers some money by encouraging agencies to adopt a new processing system (currently being tested) known as “FOIA Online” as their existing software contracts expire. 

You can snag a copy of Kevin’s written testimony at this link, but if you want the full Kevin Goldberg Experience, check out the video of the hearing at this link.  Total wonks will likely be transfixed through the whole two-hour extravaganza, but members of the Kevin4Ever Fan Club will probably want to cut to the chase by scooting ahead to the 1:44:00 mark (or thereabouts) and watching through 1:48:44. That’s where he delivers his testimony. Then you can flash forward to about 1:55:00, which is the start of some back-and-forth that culminates in three minutes’ worth of follow-up observations by Witness Goldberg, beginning at 2:00:39 and running through 2:03:16.

Kevin aficionados will doubtless swoon when the Man Himself gets a laugh out of Senator Al Franken, no stranger to humor (that’s at 2:00:39), or when he stirringly professes his love for his wife Brenda (at 2:01:50, but be sure you have some Kleenex handy before you hit the “play” button), or when Franken observes — accurately —  that Kevin, in his testimony, managed to work in cites to Jerry Garcia, Bruce Springsteen and his wife (check it out at 2:01:58).

And for more Kevin G, take a gander at his op-ed piece published recently by no less a Main Stream Media Member than USA Today.