Hillary Clinton Not Alone in Dodging Law on Email Use

On breaking news that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly used a personal email account to conduct her work-related correspondence during her time at the State Department, Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Christopher Horner pointed to a burgeoning pattern of abuse of federal law concerning official government correspondence.

Statement by Christopher Horner

One issue sure to dog a possible Hillary candidacy is the Clintons' reputation for placing expediency and their own interests above legal considerations. However incurious the media may prove in the end to be about this cartoonishly big red flag, there is no escaping that this latest example of "trimming" comes adorned in bunting and bows of laws, regulations, promises to comply with same, and documentation of email and ethics training attesting that she understood. CEI's work using the Freedom of Information Act makes plain that Ms. Clinton is not alone.

  • CEI's initial discovery and exposure that former EPA chief Lisa Jackson used an email account in the name of a fictitious EPA employee, "Richard Windsor", set off a chain of revelations, including the fact that several EPA regional administrators, and current Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe, used private email accounts for work-related correspondence. Regional administrator James Martin (R8) resigned. This was not the case with either Ms. McCabe, who actually continued to use an account with a green pressure group with which she purportedly severed ties in order to assume her current position, or Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, who continued to use her private account she used while working for an environmental advocacy group, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NY PIRG).

  • Similarly, former Department of Energy official Cathy Zoi continued to use her email account with Al Gore's pressure group Alliance for Climate Protection. (This was the same official that CEI revealed was behind the "hit" on authors of a Spanish "green jobs" study that defrocked administration claims of a supposed Spanish success story.) 

In all of these cases, these officials' colleagues knew about and enabled this violation of federal law and policy, up to and including cabinet-level officials. All of this we have demonstrated using FOIA requests. Soon, we expect the public to see more examples of why appointees use non-official email accounts, exemplified by one lobbyist sending a memo about administration agenda items that "I didn't want to send in public."

This epidemic is scandalous and the media needs to finally treat it as such.

Even as numerous related scandals unfolded and appointees were reminded of the laws they promised to obey and enforce, at no time did Ms. Clinton or any of these officials or their co-workers blink and decide that the better part of virtue was found in getting right with the law. In Ms. Clinton's case, for example, that meant transferring work-related emails from the unofficial account(s) to an official account(s), while in office, without the slightest hint that she has learned and changed, and that this time it might be different.

But note one material, often-missed distinction between Clinton and Jackson: Jackson's email account was an "@epa.gov" email account, not a private account, with no indication of the account-holder's identity – in plain violation of the law. We did also learn, however, that Ms. Jackson used and even directed lobbyists with green pressure groups and rent-seeking industries to contact her at a private, Verizon account in her own name.

It's time for someone introduce the Obama administration to 18 USC 2071, that little section of the law that forbids "concealment, removal, or mutilation generally" of government email records.