'What is NOAA trying to hide?'

Chairman Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican, wrote previously to Lubchenco seeking travel records on April 26 and Oct. 24. His letter of last Thursday ended with the question “I must ask myself — what is NOAA trying to hide?”

In the latest letter, which the Times obtained, Broun wrote that “by law, NOAA must comply with citizen requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act within 20 working days. I shouldn’t have to remind you that a congressional committee with jurisdiction over NOAA is afforded greater access than that of citizens under FOIA.”

Lubchenco’s spokeman Scott Smullen emailed the Times that “we will soon provide an answer to the congressman.”

The Commerce Department inspector general, Todd Zinser, revealed in 2010 that NOAA’s agents and litigators had improperly gone to conventions in exotic locales, covered with money drawn from excessive fines exacted from fishermen and fishing industry businesses.

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