Is the Republican ballyhoo over "secondary" email addresses used by officials at US EPA and other agencies truly a legitimate issue of "transparency"? Or is it a manufactured scandal intended to inflict political damage on the opposing party?
A hearing September 10, 2013, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform featured former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and other Obama administration officials in a theatrical stare-down that garnered buckets of news media coverage.
Jackson, who received roughly one million emails per year while at EPA, said it had long been common practice for high-profile federal officials to use alternate email addresses for important communications in order to get business done. She defended the practice as standard operating procedure and not intended to hide or deceive.
Republicans on the Senate Environment Committee had been loudly complaining about the practice since before Jackson left EPA in February 2013. They issued a report on the matter and raked Jackson over the coals. Senate Environment Committee Republicans highlighted the issue during the time when they were trying to block confirmation of Gina McCarthy to replace Jackson as EPA administrator. Panel Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) noted that the practice of using secondary emails went back through several administrations — of both parties.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has acquired a reputation for using his investigative panel as a partisan street-fighter, as he has spotlighted various issues embarrassing to the Obama administration — such as the Benghazi attack and IRS treatment of nonprofits. But his credibility has suffered with non-Republicans as these scandals have been revealed as poorly grounded.
After Issa called White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a "paid liar" in June 2013, former White House adviser David Plouffe mocked him as "Mr. Grand Theft Auto." That was a reference to Issa's own history of suspected criminal offenses ranging from auto theft to arson and gun violations.
- Minority Report: "A Call for Sunshine: EPA's FOIA and Federal Records Failures Uncovered," Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans, September 9, 2013.
- "Jackson Defends Email Practices Before House Panel," Greenwire, September 10, 2013, by Jason Plautz.
- "Agency Heads Explain Their Use of Personal Email Accounts," Government Executive, September 10, 2013, by Charles S. Clark.
- "Why the GOP’s Probe into Lisa Jackson’s Emails Is a Giant Nothingburger," Climate Progress, September 11, 2013, by Jeff Spross.
- "Former U.S. EPA Head Says a Million Emails Made Her Desperate for Relief," Reuters, September 10, 2013, by Valerie Volcovici.
- "Darrell Issa Puts A Bird On His Head," Esquire, September 10, 2013, by Charles P. Pierce.
- "Lisa Jackson Denies Email Secrecy at House Hearing," Politico, September 10, 2013, by Erica Martinson.
- "Technology Entangles Federal Officials in Open-Records Quagmires," Washington Times, September 10, 2013, by Stephen Dinan.
- "Feds Still Use Secret Email, But Messages Must Be Saved," Associated Press, September 11, 2013, by Jack Gillum.
- "Oversight Committee Questions Use of Personal Email," Atlantic Wire, September 11, 2013, by Brian Feldman.
- "Obama Officials Defend Personal Emails and Aliases," Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2013, by Alexei Koseff.
- "'Mr. Grand Theft Auto' Gets a Brush-Back Pitch," Maddow Blog, June 3, 2013, by Steve Benen.
- "Don't Look Back," New Yorker, January 24, 2011, by Ryan Lizza.
- "Issa Demands Hearings into Why No One Listens to Him," New Yorker, June 3, 2013, by Andy Borowitz.
- "The Vanishing IRS Scandal," New Yorker, June 25, 2013, by John Cassidy.
- "Report: Media Ignore Rep. Issa's Alleged Criminal Past," Media Matters, January 11, 2011, by Matt Gertz and Rob Savillo.