Sometime Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to deliver a tranche of "Richard Windsor" emails to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Those emails may shed light on the efforts of Lisa Jackson, EPA's departing administrator, to conceal details of her involvement in President Obama’s war on coal by using the fictional Windsor as a false online identity for certain federal record-keeping.
The emails come as a result of a lawsuit we brought. A court has ordered EPA to deliver all 12,000 emails that CEI requested, in four 3,000-email tranches. But that doesn’t mean the agency will comply.
EPA's first required delivery of emails, last month, came to only 2,100 emails. It was all chaff and no wheat -- press clippings and Google news alerts, and nothing more.
So today's questions are: Will we get any of the 900 withheld emails today or ever?
Will we get 3,900, so we're back on pace? And if EPA is already hiding things with such stunts in the first tranche of emails, what on earth will we learn from the other 9,900? Or will EPA even release them?
The objective is, after all, quite obviously to delay reckoning as long as possible. The matter will not be briefed before the court until this summer. Ah, the summer news cycle.
With Jackson now off the payroll, will EPA maintain its absurd refusal to even reveal the name the account they are searching? Last month, the agency claimed it had to withhold this to “maintain the viability” of the account. No viability is left to maintain.
The questions and answers are important because they speak to the administration's unwillingness to accept even the most basic limitations on government.
A court already has ordered EPA to turn over the emails, and EPA agreed to a court-ordered production schedule. But its fidelity to this – and to answering our repeated requests for clarification of curious claims it made to us in this process – is rather suspect at the moment.
This is about a campaign to crush a legitimate and strategic but politically and ideologically disfavored industry. The president has been quite public about that, and he won two national elections anyway. So why withhold now?
EPA's strategy is to stick with double-talk until this fades from the news. As such, it has refused to provide straight answers to even the most basic questions about how many secret accounts Jackson was using, for what purposes, and what they contain. They say everybody does it, but we’ve found no evidence anywhere that any other government official ever adopted a false identity for certain internal communications. They say this false identity account was for purely internal correspondence, but they won't support that claim.
Further, if it is, and since they vow that Jackson did not use her public account, what account does she use to communicate with the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council and other such groups? And with corporate pals in her agenda, such as the CEOs of GE and Duke Energy? Surely she talked to them at some point.
Each purported response has only further muddied the waters. Perhaps these guys are just not all that into transparency.
You would think Ms. Jackson would plead for this to be over with. She apparently can't get a job until the uncertainty of what is lurking in the false-identity account is removed.
Besides, what is there to hide in these public records? Did she coordinate coverage with greens, crony corporations, or prominent media outlets? The timing of certain green-group pressure campaigns, and pro-carbon tax editorials in some major newspapers suggests this is not impossible. Did she coordinate with right-leaning groups? Seemingly out of nowhere, the American Enterprise Institute held a forum to make the case for conservative support of a carbon tax last fall. If true, why be ashamed? It's her job to build support for the president's policies.
So what's left? Is there something more? If not, why not get this out and be done with it. If so, then everything that's happened so far makes perfect sense.
--Brian McNicoll is senior director of communications at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (cei.org).