No bigs: Head of EPA does a bunch of her work on alias e-mail account

posted at 6:51 pm on December 19, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

I’m posting this because, say wha?

The EPA inspector general wants some answers about Lisa Jackson’s EPA email account in the name of “Richard Windsor.”

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s email nom de plume is now officially the subject of an audit by the agency’s inspector general, which received a congressional request to probe EPA’s management of its electronic records.

So, the head of one of the most active and heavy-handed regulatory agencies in the federal government does a bunch of her business with colleagues on an e-mail address, that while it’s a .gov address, has no obvious connection to the EPA administrator herself. Among the regulations the EPA released just last year were five classified as “major” and expected to cost $4 billion annually. The administration has twice neglected to publish a Unified Agenda— a compendium of regulations coming down the pike, which it is required by law to produce twice a year. No other administration has failed to publish this vital public record since the requirement became law. But I’m sure there’s nothing the public would want to know about going on in “Richard Windsor’s” e-mail.

Chris Horner, author of “The Liberal War on Transparency,” who discovered the alias e-mail, said the government acknowledged last week there are 12,000 “Richard Windsor” e-mails addressing the war on coal, cap-and-trade issues, global warming regulation and other issues of public import. Competitive Enterprise Institute sued for access to the e-mails, and the administration will have to release them, several thousand per month, starting in January, Horner said. I’m sure there will be nothing fishy among them.

Jackson and the EPA claim “Richard Windsor’s” account is just a way for the EPA administrator to keep two separate accounts— one, which is totally public and often bogged down with public comments, and one for work colleagues. But the first thing that occurred to me is that a .gov address with a fake name is a great way to insure certain e-mails from Jackson aren’t subject to FOIA requests (recall the hubbub over the Bush White House using an outside server for similar reasons). FOIA requests have to name exactly what documentation they want from what sources. If no one knows about “Richard Windsor’s” account, as it seems is the goal, FOIA requests would naturally request e-mails in Jackson’s public account, not the alias account.

The Daily Caller reported in November:

“That is the name — sorry, one of the alias names — used by Obama’s radical EPA chief to keep her email from those who ask for it,” Chris Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the new book “The Liberal War on on Transparency,” told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

In his book, Horner revealed the existence of “alias” email accounts used by EPA administrators. The first such transparency dodge, he writes, came from Carol Browner, former director of the Obama White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and Bill Clinton’s EPA administrator.

The “Richard Windsor” alias is said to be inspired by Jackson’s hometown of East Windsor Township, N.J. and her dog, who’s apparently named “Richard?”

Get ready for the investigation:

The agency has nothing to hide, an EPA spokesman said Monday. “We said three weeks ago that we welcome any investigation,” and the agency will fully cooperate with the IG, “as we would with any other investigation,” the spokesman said.

The IG plans to audit the agency’s management of electronic records practices to determine whether the agency “follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business,” according to a Dec. 13 memo from the IG.

The office plans to find out whether anyone has been reprimanded or counseled for using private or alias email accounts for official government business and whether anyone encouraged staff to use private or alias accounts when conducting official business.

And the IG wants to know whether there are adequate policies in place to collect, maintain and access records from alias email accounts and whether there is sufficient oversight to make sure EPA employees meet federal records management requirements when it comes to private or alias email accounts.

Horner “welcome(s) the inquiry,” but reminds us how he found “Richard Windsor.”

[R]ecall what led me to discovering the latest compounding of the practice, Lisa Jackson’s false identity: I stumbled across an obscure EPA memo admitting to the “alias” accounts having been created by someone who also had ordered her hard drive and backup tapes erased (Carol Browner), and that the accounts were set on auto-delete. That is, everything about their origin screamed abuse, and controls were supposedly instituted. Later, EPA again promised to get its act together on the heels of a Government Accountability Office inquiry. And yet…

In what is surely unrelated news, is Jackson planning to spend more time with her family?

Enjoy your EPA: like a crap B-movie that costs $9 billion a year to see.

Flashback: Dana Milbank on the administration’s transparency record.


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