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Former EPA Administrator Defiant over Use of Email Aliases

Oversight Committee questions key figures, including Lisa "Richard Windsor" Jackson, in transparency probe.

by
Rodrigo Sermeño

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September 11, 2013 - 12:01 am
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WASHINGTON – Seven months after resigning as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson returned to the hot seat Tuesday to refute allegations she had abused her official email accounts and used her own private account to circumvent open records requirements.

Jackson, who used an email under the alias “Richard Windsor” at the EPA, said the practice of using a secondary official account was common among former administrators from both parties.

“I had a secondary official government account like my predecessors before me, and that was done for time management and to be able to do my job,” Jackson said in prepared remarks.

Jackson, who became Apple’s top environmental official in May, explained she chose the name because her family lived in the town of Windsor and her family dog was named Ricky. Jackson said she used the account to communicate with her staff and senior members of the White House administration and to survive the overload of communications.

“The EPA has estimated that the administrator receives well over a million e-mails every year. That’s a new email message almost every 30 seconds, around the clock, 365 days a year,” Jackson said.

The House Oversight and Government Reform hearing focused on the practice in government of using private email and alias accounts for official business.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, said the problem began at the end of the Bush administration, but in spite of President Obama’s promises to improve transparency the problem has gotten worse in the past five years.

“It is the commitment of this president, orally and in writing, to be the most transparent in history,” Issa said. “Transparency requires two things. One, that you let the sunshine in, and secondly, that the information be available in the sunlight.”

Issa also noted that contrary to their testimony, officials have not taken care to forward their private emails pertaining to government business to their official accounts.

“Very clearly emails have been lost,” he said.

Allegations that Jackson used her personal email account to circumvent federal records laws are largely based on one email in which Jackson told a Siemens employee to contact her using a personal account instead of the Winsdor account.

In December 2009, Jackson told Alison Taylor, a vice president at Siemens, to use her home email account if Taylor needed to contact Jackson directly.

“I believe she is a registered lobbyist,” Issa said about Taylor.

“The way I knew her was in a personal manner,” Jackson replied. “I was telling a personal friend, ‘Hey, if you want to… contact me at home,’” Jackson said.  She said that if anything came to her home account that was business-related, her practice was to forward it to her official account.

“I apologize, but that was what the Abramoff scandal was about,” Issa said. “People said they were friends, when in fact he was a lobbyist.”

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All Comments   (12)
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I can certainly sympathize with any public official wanting a non-public email address and phone number. I never published my staff's direct line numbers or emails addresses. There was a main phone number for the whole division and a main email address for public use. Public employees who actually do or decide anything get stalked, harassed, and at times are subject to organized campaigns of abuse and harassment.

However, having a non-public account on a government network is not the same as doing business on a private network. Public officers and employees should be explicitly prohibited from conducting their official business on a private device or network, and it doesn't matter if your name is Lisa Jackson or Sarah Palin. Palin shredded Alaska's Public Records Act with her use of private accounts and got away with it. She went so far as to have her pet Attorney General and Commissioner of Administration turn years of State policy and practice on its head with a finding that there could be private activity on government accounts and devices. We'd fought open wars with unions and interest groups over that and had firmly established the policy that if you used a government device or network, were on State time, or the activity was in the course of your duties, it was a public act subject to disclosure except if subject to explicit confidentiality rules. That wasn't good enough for Sarah. So, this isn't just an Obama or Democrat Administration issue, and actually it first came to light under the GWB Administration but it probably goes back to the beginnings of the use of email in government. The fact that words and acts are subject to public disclosure keeps a lot of bad things from happening.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Say Art, care to inform us how many Ethics Complaints you filed against the Governor when she was in office, for her official acts that the State was prohibited from defending her with public funds?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're an idiot. I never filed anything against the b*tch. I actually like her because her stupidity made me a lot of money after I left government. And, no, she didn't fire me or reject me for a job or for her "favors".

The State was never prohibited from defending her. She willfully evaded the Ethics Act. If she wanted legal defense from the State, all she had to do was tell the Ethics Act Attorney what she wanted to do, get his/her OK, and do it. Try learning something from a souce other than her press releases and those of her sycophants.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Jackson, who became Apple’s top environmental official in May..."

They crazy over there ?

Early in Barack's first term, Lisa speaking to the Washington Press Corps, showed herself a suck up ideologue/warmist without much credible understanding in the way of science.

If the Richard Windsor account was bizness as usual as she claims, not an EPA administrator communicating sub rosa in violation of the rules, why was she forced to resign so abruptly ?

So many lying ideologues "serving" this administration.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, Katherine, this is not painfully small. It is a symptom of an administration that has made it common practice to lie to the people they are supposed to serve.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, you are right and I get the symptom factor but so much else has gone so wrong, I don't feel an example can be made here. How can Kerry make the survivors unavailable to congress for testimony? How can the IRS sideline the TEA party and encourage some churches? How are we any longer a nation of laws and not men?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
"A journey of a thousand-miles starts with but a single step."
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
And, this is just one of the avenues of inquiry that Issa's committee is conducting. He, along with the Committee on Ways and Means, is also looking into the behavior of the IRS - among others.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is so small, so stupidly, painfully small. Issa is playing in the weeds when he should be playing with the big boys. "What difference, at this point, does it make?" When Benghazi is compared to this, what does he hope to achieve?

When the IRS is arrayed against my fellow citizens, why wander in these fields?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
You'll wonder what difference it makes when the EPA closes down your local power plant, you have rolling blackouts, and your electricity costs skyrocket.
And just what did that boss at Siemens want to talk about - has he submitted his, and Taylor's, emails to the committee for edification?
And if not, why not?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
When I got here to comment the only comment was spam which opened with a bogus reference to a non existent previous comment. Sort of like pretending your only relationship to a lobbyist is as a personal friend when they have skin in the game in your agency's area of responsibility.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Lisa Jackson, AKA, Richard Windsor, is misunderstood:
""I had a secondary official government account like my predecessors before me, and that was done for time management and to be able to do my job,” Jackson said in prepared remarks.""

She was mostly interested in managing her busy schedule. See her real name, Lisa Jackson, has more letters than her moniker, Richard Windsor, takes longer to type. She was merely saving key strokes...wait a sec. She added three strokes, not saved any.

Hmmm. Lisa Jackson = Igor Volskey of Talking Points Memo I think it is. Igor is a librul blogger over whose byline every single headline is a lie. Remember those scandal rags, like the ones in the supermarket checkouts? The headline? "Youngster with Three Heads Graduates from Kindergarten." The story? Boy with baby, three-headed, pet frog graduates from kindergarten.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
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