While the Obama administration has promised us “the most transparent administration in history,” they are proving to be anything but. And it’s not just Benghazi and Fast and Furious that they have tried so hard to cover up. In an interview with Christopher Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), we discussed some other examples from his blockbuster book, The Liberal War on Transparency. He makes a powerful case demonstrating how the left, and specifically the Obama administration, goes to great lengths to avoid having to reveal the record of what they are doing at the expense of the American taxpayer.
A significant part of the book is about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has used secret email accounts to conduct business to avoid having their work product subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). CEI filed suit in late September asking the federal court to order the EPA to produce records pertaining to these “non-public email accounts for EPA administrators.”
While it got very little attention in the mainstream media, Thomas Lifson of American Thinker reported this week, in a piece titled, “EPA Covert Email System Scandal Deepens,” that “Last Friday, under court order, the agency [EPA] released a tranche of 1,200 pages in response to a lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Chris Horner of the CEI uncovered the first sign of the secret communications channel when he was researching his book, The Liberal War On Transparency, when he came across emails to and from ‘Richard Windsor’ that were in fact from [Lisa] Jackson. Jackson resigned her post [as EPA administrator] in December last year when a court ordered her to release all Richard Windsor emails. By using an alias, these emails were not discoverable in Freedom of Information Act Inquiries, and in violation of the law.”
You can view part of my interview with Chris Horner about the EPA’s deception, but this was before the 1,200 pages were released.
Besides the EPA, he demonstrates that the use of these private email accounts to do government business is widespread. He cites, for example, the Department of Energy with the Solyndra program, which was administered on fourteen separate e-mail accounts. Horner also tells how average citizens can exercise their rights to file FOIAs, and to begin to hold the government more accountable.
Below are excerpts from the nearly hour long interview. You can read the complete transcript, or view the entire interview here.
ARONOFF: Interesting. In the book, The Liberal War on Transparency, you point out that the Obama administration came to power promising to be “the most transparent administration in history.” How’s that working out?
HORNER: Not very well, if you believe the Left-wing groups—who are, generally, sitting on their hands here, but they have slipped on message discipline a few times. I quote a few of these groups, three or four of them, saying that either the Obama administration is “the worst” on transparency ever—the least transparent ever—or “worse than Bush,” who they called “the worst.” So they uniformly acknowledge that this administration really isn’t all that in to transparency. It was a great talking point—apparently their pollsters told them people wanted to hear this—they were ostentatious in their proclamations of being “the most transparent ever,” and promiscuous in their violations of it to the point of, on its face, criminality. I have an affidavit from a government official in the book acknowledging what is, on its face, a criminal document destruction—a very elaborate, by the way, well-thought-through, three-stage document destruction operation involving bringing in private computers to the government office to destroy the government’s copies. It’s just spectacular, the lengths to which they’ve gone—false identities, moving government over to AOL—just remarkable.
HORNER: I revealed, in the book, that some secret E-mail accounts were set up at EPA. I found this out in a memo in which EPA explains to the National Archives that they just found out about it.
ARONOFF: So is Congress, or the Justice Department, or anyone looking into this besides you? How is that progressing?
HORNER: We’ll start with the Justice Department. The good news is, of course, we have a Justice Department to handle this. The bad news is, we have this Justice Department to handle it, so, good luck with that. Eric Holder, actually, in following through on what turned out to be just a poll-tested promise of transparency, issued two memoranda, following on a President’s memo to heads of departments and agencies—which is like an executive order—saying, “No more of this abusing these exemptions, no more using the law as a way to withhold documents as opposed to releasing them. If it’s a discretionary exemption, let the document out, and so on.” They filed the affidavit acknowledging to this elaborate document destruction operation. It didn’t seem to really bother them; it was their excuse for not producing documents. So I hold very little hope out for this Department of Justice.
HORNER: Right now, three full House committees, and one full Senate committee are on the “Richard Windsor” case, and on other things revealed in the book. So, already, I’m pleased with the outcome, because they are demanding answers by dates certain, and EPA has ignored every single request.
ARONOFF: What has been the media’s reaction to what you’ve been doing, to Congress’s oversight on this matter? Is there any coverage that is balanced, that’s really taking a look at this?
HORNER: New media. The London Daily Mail covered the story. The Washington Post isn’t all that interested. The Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, the Free Beacon—have been good about this. The Washington Times ran a piece that got Drudged pointing out the “Richard Windsor” scandal. It’s a false identity—I mean, it’s tough for the media to ignore that, and somehow they’re managing to. It’s a false identity created for record-keeping purposes, and I suggest—and this, I think, is just illustrative—there were fewer facepalm moments in the Cabinet meeting when this broke—“Why didn’t I think of that?”—than there were, “Uh-oh—they’re onto us.”
ARONOFF: The sub-title of your book is Confessions of a Freedom of Information Criminal. How did you become a criminal?
HORNER: The whole book is not all about EPA; I reveal things about the White House, Treasury Department, Department of Energy—the Solyndra Program was administered on fourteen separate E-mail accounts—and so on. But there’s a lot of the global warming industry that’s addressed here simply because the UN has demanded on some secret tricks—private computers, servers, and so on—that the White House is helping them with.
But the sub-title is specific to EPA. It was “Richard Windsor”—irony alert!—who took to a Berkeley Law School podium and gave a speech in which she said that my use of the Freedom of Information Act was “criminal”—only to later be exposed as having created a false identity for federal record-keeping purposes by said criminal, me.
HORNER: When [Jim Messina] was [White House] Deputy Chief of Staff—and he’s known as “The Fixer,”…flying around on corporate jets and fixing their problems—one of his problems, apparently, was the Presidential Records Act, because, like the Federal Records Act, for non-White House, or non-Inner Circle employees, you have to create a record of what you’re doing. Now, the White House is exempt from FOIA releases—much of the White House, not all of it—but they’re not exempt from having to create a record of how they’re exercising their authority and spending our money. If he’s going to strike deals with drug companies whereby—not purely hypothetically, but in reality—he gives them $4 billion in Obamacare, and they give a promise to lobby for the bill, and pay $150 million in public affairs lobbying, advertising, and so on, you are to conduct that—if you conduct it on E-mail, as he did—at the who.eop.gov, his White House E-mail that we assign him, we pay for, for the purpose of doing your official business on it. Instead—and this was not political work, this was his official business, trying to strike the Obamacare deal—he moved over to AOL to strike these deals, which, really, is the way that entire White House operates. Even Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and New York Times—to the extent there’s a difference—reported that these White House aides were taking to private E-mail accounts to email lobbyists.
ARONOFF: On global warming, help people who do try to read both sides and are confused, because we’ve seen recent reports that say “Last year was the hottest year on record! The hottest decade on record!” yet we also hear that since 1998 there’s been no warming, or no substantial warming. There appear to be plenty of scientists and plenty of people who no longer accept this, and I think one of the clearest indications is no longer calling it “global warming” but calling it “climate change,” because who can—
HORNER: Now “climate weirding.” They’re going to focus now on extreme weather. Look: The President, after saying, “Don’t reject the overwhelming consensus of scientists,” or whatever, says, “Don’t deny”—nice of him to invoke that again—“denier,” denialism—then goes on to repeat this nonsense that the science doesn’t show. The trend of drought is quite clearly the opposite, and so on. So I would say, first, if you believe in catastrophic manmade global warming, as Marvin Gaye sang, “Let’s get it on!” Let’s have this—it worked out so well with cap-and-trade. Please, do it again!