WASHINGTON, May 5 – The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed a lawsuit on Monday against the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) over its continued refusal to produce public information in response to an October 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Specifically, CEI sought work-related correspondence to or from White House ‘science czar’, OSTP Director John Holdren, using the email server of a green pressure group, Woods Hole Research Center. CEI uncovered this practice through a court-ordered “Vaughn Index” of documents the government withheld, produced in the lawsuit over former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson's use of a false-identity email account, called “Richard Windsor,” to avoid oversight of her correspondence with environmental activists.
Statement by Christopher Horner, Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow:
"For more than six months, OSTP has refused to honestly respond to our FOIA request quite plainly seeking White House-related emails from OSTP Director Holdren's green pressure group email account. We learned Holdren unlawfully continued to use this account, including to email other political appointees, about issues relating to his work as a direct advisor to the president. This is an account that he was not supposed to still have. Therefore, it was also apparently not being searched for oversight or FOIA requests as required by federal law. Of course, doing so would defeat the purpose of having a 'black' account.
"The law requires agencies give a production schedule or else deny a FOIA request within 20 working days. OSTP first denied that CEI's request was even a FOIA request because it sought records on a non-official computer server. Among the biggest problems with that dodge, which runs contrary to ample and clear legal precedent, is an administration statement called the ‘Holdren memo’. In the memo, none other than Holdren himself said, ‘one of our employees recently fell short,’ chastising an OSTP subordinate caught using Gmail for work purposes. Meanwhile, Holdren was doing just that, but worse, on a server controlled and only accessible by a green pressure group proclaimed ‘the world's third most influential climate change think tank’ by the International Center for Climate Governance."
OSTP also refused to acknowledge CEI's administrative appeal as an appeal, calling it instead a clarification and rewriting of what CEI asked for, and limiting it to emails on Holdren's OSTP account.