Beltway Confidential

20 Windsorgate questions for Obama administration

By |
Beltway Confidential,Mark Tapscott

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice are expected to make public Monday the first batch of 3,000 of 12,000 "Richard Windsor" emails sought by Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Christopher C. Horner.

"Richard Windsor" was the government email non de plume used by former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson during her tenure from 2009 through 2013.

It is a violation of multiple federal public access and transparency laws for government officials to use fake email names while doing official business.

Horner sued EPA in federal court after the agency refused to provide Jackson emails he requested through the Freedom of Information Act. A federal court sided with Horner and ordered the emails to be made public.

The government is releasing the 12,000 emails in four batches, beginning Monday, in a developing scandal dubbed "Windsorgate."

The EPA Inspector-General opened an investigation in December 2012 on Jackson's use of fake names after Jackson conceded doing so. But Horner and other EPA critics claim the use of fake email names is widespread throughout the agency and may also be elsewhere in the federal government.

The following 20 questions highlight many of the initial issues likely to be raised in coming months as the Windsorgate investigation proceeds.

Within EPA:

1. How many EPA officials knew and cooperated with Jackson's "Richard Windsor" alias?

2. How could they cooperate with it if they knew it is illegal to use fake names on government accounts?

3. How many EPA political appointees did so? How many career employees?

4. Why did the EPA's General Counsel resign the same day the emails became public that demonstrated the use of the Richard Windsor non de plume?

5. Why didn't any other EPA attorneys who knew and cooperated resign?

6. Given the General Counsel's prior work as Jackson's deputy administrator, how could he serve as General Counsel while knowing about the fake name use?

7. Was the EPA IG aware of Jackson's use of the fake name when he worked for her in the office of the EPA General Counsel?

8. If he was aware of it, what did he do to stop it, if anything?

9. If he wasn't aware of it, why wasn't he?

10. Was the Obama/Jackson transition team aware of use of aliases by presidential or political appointees of the preceding Bush administration?

Elsewhere in the Executive Branch:

1. If presidential appointees used fake email names at EPA, how many did so at other departments and agencies?

2. Did White House accept and cooperate with EPA use of fake names?

3. How many other fake names are in use elsewhere in the government with White House knowledge?

4. Was the White House Counsel aware of the practice at EPA? Other agencies? If yes, did the counsel endorse it, or otherwise offer guidance or other advice on the practice?

5. Did Attorney General Eric Holder know of the practice at EPA? Is he aware of the practice at other departments or agencies?

6. Why is there no mention of the practice in the Obama FOIA guidance memo in February 2009?

7. Was Obama aware of the EPA practice when he said on his first day in office that his administration would be the most open and transparent ever? If he was, why didn't he stop it, knowing the practice to be illegal?

8. What is Obama going to do now to determine how extensive among his appointees throughout the executive branch is the practice of using fake names?

9. Does Obama plan to issue a statement or memo reminding his appointees that it is against the law to use fake names in doing official business?

10. Will Obama direct Holder to revise the February 2009 FOIA guidance memo to reiterate that use of fake names is a violation of federal law?

Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.

View article comments Leave a comment