a) I would not offer to cover any expenses. This leaves the door open for them to charge you for information. It would be better served if you put more effort behind the exceptions for them to assess fees. I typically include a sentence to help them determine my status to assess fees. I normally go down the route of defining that I am an individual, publication on an .org site, non-commercial use, and some other stuff.
b) When claiming a waiver of all fees there are some buzz words that you typically want to use. "public interest", "contribute significantly", "activities of the government".
c) Its typically helpful if the information you are requesting is provided in bullet point list so they can easily 'check off' the items they have given. If its provided to them in the request as a sentence they may miss something.I hereby request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understand of the operations or activities of the government.
d) Be very precise in your definition of items your requesting. I typically follow the [Detailed Description of Item] [Where its located or how it got there if possible] [any relation between items] and [timeframe/dates]
e) I typically use the federal FOIA Chapter 5 USC subsection 552 as my authority to make such requests. I don't know if the Washington information act is better or worse.Any correspondence such as email or letters and their attachments, send and/or received via the internet or USPS relating to firearms between the dates of [start date] and present date.
f) I would not request 'to inspect or obtain a copy', I typically as that a copy of the documents be provided to me. That way they don't have a way out of the request by saying you can come view them at x location on y date/time. Only do this if they reject your request for a copy for whatever reason.
g) Most departments, municipals, etc have their own FOIA form that you must also fill out. I typically fill in the form, and also give my template letter below as an attachment because the form does not have enough space to provide all the information and define my exemptions to assess fees.
Here is an example of one of my form letters:
Dear FOIA Officer,
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act (Chapter 5 USC subsection 552). I request that a copy of documents containing the following information be provided to me:
• Item 1
• Item 2
In order to help determine my status to assess fees, you should know that I am an individual seeking information for review and publication on a non-profit lobbying and citizen watchdog group relating to protections of the 2nd amendment. This national organization has many years of experience explaining the actions of police departments and legally armed citizens to the press, and advising police departments across the nation in their training of officers when dealing with legally armed citizens. This information will not be used for commercial purposes.
I hereby request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.
If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your refusal to release the information and notify me of appeal procedures available under the law.
Please send response to this letter either digitally through email to [email address] or physically via US Mail to the address listed below:
[Address Line 1]
[City, State Zipcode]