CREDIT: AP Photo/Bill Haber
Environmental Protection Agency critics in Congress again criticized former agency Administrator Lisa Jackson this week amid speculation that she may have used private e-mail addresses to evade public records laws. But in launching these continued attacks, these Congressional Republicans continue to conveniently forget that the same practices were common in the George W. Bush administration.
Pointing to a single email in which Jackson asked someone to contact her at her home address, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who dismisses climate change evidence as “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage,” said in a statement that “the mere fact that the agency’s Administrator was trying to circumvent ‘sunshine’ laws is a huge red flag for the effectiveness of the agency and the administration.” Vitter co-sponsored a 2011 bill to eliminate the EPA.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), also a climate-change denier, charged that it “runs afoul of the president’s promise to run the most transparent administration in history and creates an undeniable impression that officials are engaging in inappropriate behavior.”
If indeed Jackson, who stepped down in February, intended to circumvent public records laws, that is indeed problematic — just as it was when Bush administration officials used Republican National Committee-issued “gwb43.com” email addresses.
But their oft-repeated criticisms of the Jackson’s — and other Obama administration officials including Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — for merely using multiple official e-mail addresses is particularly disingenuous. In addition to their publicly available addresses, Jackson a private “firstname.lastname@example.org” address and Sebelius used “KGS2@hhs.gov” for some communications. A HHS document, newly obtained by ThinkProgress under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that in addition to the two addresses George W. Bush appointee Mike Leavitt used as EPA Administrator, he had ten different e-mail accounts during his own tenure as Secretary of HHS.
All three other Bush-era EPA administrators also used multiple addresses during their tenures — a public address (using the typical agency format of email@example.com) and a private one. This practice is understandable — no one would expect the President to give the public his private cellphone number or to send and receive messages to top aides through his firstname.lastname@example.org address — and these accounts are as much covered by Freedom of Information and presidential records retention laws and as any other executive branch emails.
U.S. Senators and Representatives also typically have non-published e-mail addresses, though Congress exempted itself from Freedom of Information laws.
The offices of Issa and Vitter did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress request for their Congressional and home email addresses.