Federal Advisory Committee Meetings All Too Often Closed to Public

November 11, 2015

An important, but little-known, transparency law requires that meetings of federal advisory committees be open to the public. But a new study shows that more than two-thirds of the time, they are in fact closed to the public.

On those committees, industry "experts" who have a financial stake may be telling agencies to ignore scientific findings in their regulation of things like environmental health and toxic chemicals.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) is supposed to limit conflict of interest on the part of committee members and also to maximize public scrutiny. But a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that closed meetings were the rule, rather than the exception (71% were closed in fiscal 2014). The study was based on a database maintained by the General Services Administration. Transparency requirements of FACA are bolstered by another law, the Government in the Sunshine Act.

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