FOIA Advocate Steve Horn, RIP

02.20.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Former Congressman Steve Horn (R-CA), who was a leading congressional defender of the Freedom of Information Act and of public access to government information generally, died last week at age 79.

Rep. Horn was a primary sponsor, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy, of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act of 1996, which formally extended the provisions of the FOIA to electronic records. He led congressional efforts to oversee FOIA implementation and to address defects in agency compliance.

As chairman of a House Government Reform subcommittee with jurisdiction over FOIA, “What struck me then and now is the critical role that public access to Government information plays in our democracy,” Horn said in 2002. “It is key to having an informed citizenry and to supplying our citizens with the knowledge they need to hold their Government accountable. Therefore, I have always been a strong advocate of the Act.”

Rep. Horn “was outspoken against the abuse of secrecy by executive agencies and the willingness of many Congressional Committees to ignore their duties and allow such secrecy,” recalled Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) after his retirement in 2002. “He forced the CIA and the Department of Defense to release documents so that Congress could effectively perform oversight.”

In a rather modest gesture of respect, Congress named a post office after him in 2003 (the “Stephen Horn Post Office Building” at 2300 Redondo Avenue in Long Beach, California).

Update: Horn’s family invites donations in his name to the University Library, California State University, Long Beach, c/o CSULB Foundation, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840 (via LAT).