CEI Files FOIA for Gina McCarthy Text Messages

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 26, 2013 – Yesterday, CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Environmental Protection Agency for text messages sent by EPA Administrator-nominee Gina McCarthy on several specified dates ranging from July 2009 to June 2012. McCarthy was serving then as Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, and the text messages were sent from a mobile device provided by the Agency.

This FOIA is yet another step in Horner’s ongoing campaign to discover the truth behind the EPA’s reluctance to live up to President Obama’s promises of transparency. Last year, Horner revealed a shocking culture of obfuscation at the EPA when he discovered an email account created for Lisa Jackson in the name of a fictitious employee and the use of personal email accounts by numerous other senior officials. Now, someone has come forward claiming that McCarthy, Obama’s nominee to succeed Jackson, was apparently warned about inappropriate use of text messaging creating possible troubles for her and EPA.

The following is a statement from Chris Horner.

When I revealed the secondary email accounts created by former EPA administrator Carol Browner, an EPA source helpfully came forth to inform me of the account created for then-Administrator Lisa Jackson in the name of a fictitious EPA employee, “Richard Windsor.” In the process of pursuing those records, I learned that EPA staff were using instant messaging for certain communications, which in turn led me to discover that the Agency was counseling its employees to unlawfully use non-EPA IM accounts, including AOL and Yahoo, and teaching them how to set up websites to serve as yet another alternative to EPA’s email system.

Now, after filing suit to get EPA to respond to a FOIA request about certain IM accounts, someone else has come forward to make certain claims about the text-messaging practices of Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to replace Jackson.

Specifically, this person claims that McCarthy’s superiors cautioned her about the propriety of her text messages, particularly her comments about members on the congressional panels during hearings at which she appeared. Others in attendance and who observed McCarthy at these hearings confirm that McCarthy did appear to be busily texting on these occasions when not addressing the committee.

If her behavior did in fact warrant a caution by superiors, this is important information, particularly as the Senate considers her elevation to run an agency beset by transparency scandals. Like IMs, text messages have apparently never been turned over by EPA in response to FOIA and congressional oversight requests for “records” or “electronic records”. Yet they are undeniably agency records under various relevant statutes. Has EPA been destroying these records, or preserving them as required but merely hiding them from the public and from Congress?

I have filed a FOIA request seeking Ms. McCarthy’s text messaging for the dates on which she has testified before Congress. I look forward to EPA producing the records that will provide some answers to these questions.

>> Read the April 25 FOIA request filed by Chris Horner here.