Greenwire reporter Emily Yehle this week broke the news that then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson intentionally used her private e-mail account to conduct official business, which is contrary to federal transparency and record-keeping laws. In an e-mail to Alison Richards, a lobbyist for Siemens Corporation, Jackson wrote, “P.S. Can you use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly? Tx, Lisa.”
This e-mail was made public as part of the latest tranche of “Richard Windsor” e-mails released by the EPA in response to federal court order enforcing a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute last year. Chris Horner, my CEI colleague who filed the FOIA request, commented that the e-mail to the Siemens lobbyist is the smoking gun that proves Jackson was deliberately evading the rules in order to conceal some of her official business from public scrutiny.
In another FOIA lawsuit against the EPA, federal District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled on 14th August that the Landmark Legal Foundation can question top EPA officials about their use of private e-mail accounts to conduct official business. Lamberth wrote that, “The possibility that unsearched personal email accounts may have been used for official business raises the possibility that leaders in the EPA may have purposefully attempted to skirt disclosure under the FOIA.”
As Chris Horner told the Washington Times, “FOIA works on an honor system, and those systems only work with people of honor. So you see the problem.”
And in related news, Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has sent a letter to IRS official Lois Lerner asking her to turn over all e-mails from her private account in which official government business was conducted. Lerner is a central figure in the scandal over IRS targeting of Tea Party groups. The committee’s investigation turned up evidence that Lerner was forwarding official IRS documents to her “Lois Home” account at msn.com.