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Johnson on Politicization and Government Transparency


Gbemende Johnson
Gbemende Johnson

Associate Professor of Government Gbemende Johnson recently published “Government Transparency and Public Access” in Presidential Studies Quarterly. In the article, Johnson examines whether politicization can affect aggregate government transparency through the lens of Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) requests.

Politicization refers to the presence of political appointees throughout an administrative agency. Johnson says that while the Freedom of Information Act is overwhelmingly administered by career civil servant employees, political appointees can play a variety of roles in the implementation of FOIA, including searching for records in response to a FOIA request.

Johnson finds that increasing political appointee presence is associated with a higher proportion of “no records response” in response to a FOIA request. A “no records response” indicates that an agency could not locate records requested in a FOIA request.

She notes that such a response can occur when someone submits a request for records not held by the agency. However, Johnson also says that personnel with a lower level of experience with FOIA implementation, such as some political appointees, could also affect the record retrieval process.  

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