American Elephants


Shining the Public Spotlight on Sneaky Secrets at the EPA. What Will Be Revealed? by The Elephant's Child

Lisa Jackson

Splendid news from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is administrator Lisa Jackson’s forthcoming departure. It is a major victory for transparency and accountability in Washington.

There have been whispers for years and rumors that EPA officials used private email addresses, fake names and coded messages to avoid the strictures of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Jackson’s use of “Richard Windsor” as her chosen email address has recently become public, and Jackson admitted to using “Richard Windsor”as her nom de plume on a government email account.

The EPA inspector general opened an investigation into the matter because it is against federal law to use nonofficial or secret email addresses to conduct official business.  The use of private or false flag emails enables government officials to hide things that they would prefer we do not know about. And hiding things from FOIA requests is illegal. But the EPA has been hiding things for a very long time.

During the Clinton years, Carol Browner (a former senatorial aide to Vice President Gore) headed the EPA. She ordered the hard drive on her government computer to be reformatted and all backup tapes destroyed, just hours after a federal judge ordered her agency to preserve all agency email records. Only hopelessly naive or blindly partisan folks took seriously Browner’s doe-eyed claim that it was all just a big mistake and she certainly wasn’t trying to cover up anything. Nothing to see here, so move along, folks.

And nothing was done.

Christopher Horner, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and FOIA expert turned up an internal memo from the EPA’s IT department, which described the process for establishing and using secret email accounts.

That particular revelation engendered real warfare among Jackson’s EPA, a federal court, at least two Congressional committees, Horner and the CEI over thousands of other internal emails and documents that are likely to shed light on the illegalities going on at the environmental agency. The EPA has authored hundreds of regulations that damage business, cost jobs, and involve huge costs to innocent bystanders for highly questionable reasons dependent on unusually questionable evidence.

The conflict is ongoing, and there are sure to be more ugly revelations. Those who defend Jackson will claim that her departure has nothing to do with such matters.  Chris Horner makes an obvious point: “It is not only implausible that Lisa Jackson’s resignation was unrelated to her false identity, which we revealed, given how the obvious outcome and apparent objective of such transparency laws was intolerable. But it became an inevitability when, last week, the Department of Justice agreed (as a result of our lawsuit) to begin producing 12,000 of her “Richard Windsor” alias accounts related to the war on coal Jackson was orchestrating on behalf of President Obama outside of the appropriate democratic process.”

Along with all the other things the Obama administration hid until ‘after the election’ there are dozens of Jackson’s most costly and controversial proposed regulations, which the administration is now releasing. These regulations are especially damaging to the coal industry which supplies the major portion of our electric power.

President Obama has long made clear that he wants to bankrupt the coal industry, which seems to be part of his desire to save the planet from a global warming that is proving to be non-existent. There are lots of legal battles to come.

It has become obvious that many of the numbers put forth by the agency are fraudulent, environmental damage is invented, and harm to humanity is exaggerated hooey. That’s what transparency and accountability are all about.

If you believe that the government’s business should be conducted in public, this is a significant beginning. Nobody in government has ever gone to jail for violating a FOIA request, and Jackson won’t go to jail either. But the agency is now an object of attention by the IG office as well as Congressional committees. That can only help.



The Words of Obama’s Mouth Don’t Match His Record! by The Elephant's Child

On December 7, 2009, the Office of Information Policy in the Justice Department headed by Attorney General Eric Holder, convened a secret meeting on transparency in government.  The purpose of the meeting was to train Freedom of Information Act officers from federal agencies in how to respond to FOIA requests, including instructions on how to resolve disputes over what government documents can be made public.

Judicial Watch obtained a series of pre-conference emails in which Justice officials sought approval from White House media officials for closing the meeting to reporters.  OIP’s director said in one of the emails that she has “always held parallel meetings, one for agency’ees and then one that is open.”

Obama said on his first day in the Oval Office that he wanted people in the executive branch to respond to FOIA requests “with a clear presumption’ In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton said:

Only in Washington would political appointees think it appropriate to keep secret a government workshop on transparency. 

Getting the records of the Solyndra scandal, finding out what happened and who knew what about the Fast and Furious debacle, has been a struggle.  Obama’s appointees have held back thousands of documents legitimately sought by congressional investigators.

Obama’s secretary of labor, Hilda Solis, has gutted the regulations that required labor unions to release information about the organization’s financial state, including the total compensation packages for union leaders.  The requirement that unions were required to report on positions for which the union is paid but nobody actually does the work are gone as well.  The biggest losers are union members.  Union members by very large majorities believe that union officials and executives should have to disclose their salaries and benefits as a way of making them accountable to their members.

Very big on openness until somebody wants information that you don’t want them to have.




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