Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse




Government watchdog


Susan Long and David Burnham


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Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) is a nonprofit research center operating under Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. TRAC uses the Freedom of Information Act to access information from the federal government to serve as a watchdog over federal law enforcement, immigration policy, and judicial affairs. TRAC and its co-founders, Susan Long and David Burnham, have been especially critical of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Most of TRAC’s funding comes from major left-of-center grantmaking foundations, including the Rockefeller Family Fund and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. However, TRAC’s FOIA Project has received funding from the libertarian-leaning Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

TRAC has offices at Syracuse University and Washington, D.C., as well as a “West Coast Branch.”1


The 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) established a framework for United States citizens to access federal government data by making discrete requests. If the requested information does not violate national security protocols or fall under certain statutory exemptions, the federal government must honor FOIA requests. However, FOIA requests are often complicated and require an intricate understanding of federal bureaucracy to execute successfully. 2 Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse states that “the FOIA process has long been plagued with routine, flagrant and systematic operational failures.” 3

TRAC was established in 1989 to serve as a government watchdog by efficiently producing FOIA requests to amass a database of federal information pertaining to numerous aspects of the federal government. Its current databases pertain to immigration, law enforcement, judicial decisions, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 4

TRAC employs a team of researchers, administrators, and pro-bono lawyers to accomplish its goals. 5


Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is often cited by journalists regarding discrepancies between public statements from the federal government and reality. In June 2022, the Daily Wire reported that a TRAC database found that 50,000 records regarding asylum for immigrants had disappeared, which permitted President Joe Biden (D)’s administration to falsely claim that it had cleared its asylum backlog. 6

A March 2022 report from TRAC found that the IRS audited families which earned less than $25,000 per year five times more often than all other families. 7

In 2018, Houston Public Media, a local National Public Radio outlet, cited a TRAC study finding that Houston judges denied asylum to foreigners at a vastly higher rate than in other cities. The average Houston judge denied asylum in 87% of cases, compared to 17% in New York City. 8

FOIA Project

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse operates the FOIA Project, which tracks how individual federal agencies and districts respond to FOIA requests in terms of speed and “improper withholding” of information. Its website states that the project’s goal is to “shame” federal agencies which respond slowly to FOIA requests and attract public attention to force reform. 9

The FOIA Project has been funded by the Warsh-Mott Legacy, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the William B. Wiener Jr. Foundation, the JRS Dryfoos Charitable Lead Trust, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation,, and the Friends of FOIA Fund. 10


Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse was co-founded and is co-directed by former New York Times reporter David Burnham. Burnham is best known as the reporter who helped expose rampant corruption at the New York Police Department with the help of police officer Frank Serpico, the inspiration for the 1973 Al Pacino movie, Serpico. 11 In 1990, Burnham published “A Law Unto Itself: Power, Politics, and the IRS,” an investigative critique of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service which found evidence of bribery, corruption, and unchecked bureaucratic expansion. 12

TRAC co-founder and co-director Susan Long is an associate professor of managerial statistics at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. She was previously director of the Center for Tax Studies at Syracuse, and a visiting fellow at the National Institute of Justice in the U.S. Department of Justice. 13


Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is financed by Syracuse University, user fees, and charitable donations. TRAC does not accept funds from the government. 14 Its major donors include numerous left-of-center grantmaking foundations, including the Rockefeller Family Fund, the New York Times Company Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ford Foundation, JEHT Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Beldon Fund, Herb Block Foundation, and the Open Society Institute. 15


  1. “About Us.” TRAC. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  2.  “About Us.” TRAC. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  3. “About the FOIA Project.” FOIA Project. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  4. “About Us.” TRAC. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  5. “About Us.” TRAC. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  6. Rosiak, Luke. “Biden Admin Is Paying Illegal Immigrants And ‘Sponsors’ For Their Travel To Settle In US, Document Shows.” Daily Wire. June 23, 2022. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  7. IRS Audits Poorest Families at Five Times the Rate for Everyone Else.” TRAC. March 8, 2022. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  8. Trovall, Elizabeth; Ortiz, Alvaro ‘Al’. “What Are The Chances of Getting Asylum? A Lot Better In New York Than Houston.” Houston Public Media. August 2, 2018. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  9. “About the FOIA Project.” FOIA Project. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  10. “About the FOIA Project.” FOIA Project. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  11. [1] Bell, Josh. “’Never Run When You’re Right’: The Real Story of NYPD Whistleblower Frank Serpico.” ACLU. November 3, 2017. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  12. “A Law Unto Itself: Power, Politics, and the IRS.” Amazon. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  13. “Susan B. Long.” Syracuse University. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  14. [1] “Why Do We Charge?” TRAC. Accessed June 28, 2022.
  15. “About Us.” TRAC. Accessed June 28, 2022.
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