WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 – Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute commends the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., for calling a hearing on how to prevent violations of federal transparency laws.
Specifically, CEI also commends the committee for calling former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to testify at the hearing, which takes place next Tuesday in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Jackson resigned last Dec. 27 after CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner revealed she had used an unprecedented false-identity email account created for certain of her correspondence, in the name of Richard Windsor. This alternative to an email account identifying her – as all of her predecessors have done and the law plainly requires – was used to conduct official business. Whatever her motivations for this unprecedented act, the one inescapable outcome was to frustrate federal record-keeping and disclosure laws, including but not limited to the Freedom of Information Act.
“Progress has been too long coming toward finding out just how deeply this rot went in the administration, and frankly, what conversations took place to put in place such transparency-killing schemes that we have discovered, from false identities to other email accounts not identifying the account holder, to promiscuously using private emails and even systematically destroying text messages,” said Horner. “It is long overdue and I wish the committee well in extracting straight answers from people who went to great lengths to avoid letting the taxpayer know what they were up to on our dime.”
Jackson and others have responded, in effect, that everyone does it. The implication – that every other EPA administrator has done what Jackson did – is flatly untrue, Horner said. Every administrator’s “secondary” email account identified the sender as the administrator. “Richard Windsor” is not such an account. There is no evidence any senior federal official has ever adopted a false persona for certain recordkeeping, but it does seem that this sort of trick is epidemic in the current administration.
Horner’s research, most of which is detailed in his most recent book, “The Liberal War On Transparency,” revealed widespread use of private email, texting accounts, document destruction, private computer servers and other measures across government to put the communications of top officials beyond the knowledge, if not legally beyond the reach, of FOIA requesters. Jackson’s chief counsel at EPA also quit after Horner’s work became public, as did Jim Martin, administrator of EPA’s Region 8.
“I have to commend the committee,” Horner said. “When it comes to discussing problems with government transparency, it certainly brought in the right experts on the subject.”
CEI is still in federal court to try to obtain unredacted ‘Richard Windsor’ emails.