Consider the following revelations courtesy of internal documents and well-placed sources::
- The practice of using private email accounts for public business is now epidemic. Scandalous instances include using off-record accounts to arrange the deal with drug companies to lobby for ObamaCare and to execute the scandal-plagued Loan Guarantee Program that Solyndra made famous all avoiding creation of the legally required historical record;
- The same goes for using private computers and third-party servers, also making an end-run around transparency and recording laws. At least one agency permits employees’ entire email records to be destroyed by accessing them with outside, non-official computers;
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established secret email accounts for its administrator which an internal document says few within the agency know exist, fewer can access, and records of which cannot be found. Curiously, this was done by order of former EPA administrator and Obama energy czar Carol Browner, who famously said she didn’t use her computer for email, in defense of having had its hard drive and backup tapes erased in violation of a federal court’s order.
- The Obama administration uses industry lobbyists as cut-outs, or go-betweens, to avoid direct written contact with groups certain to be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including the activist group Center for American Progress (CAP);
- They created “handles”, or code names for discussing high-profile or controversial appointees likely to be the subject of information requests;
There are many more examples, from sitting on investigations to enabling the immediate destruction of documents to escape FOIA scrutiny. The Obama administration also systematically politicized FOIA, even installing the equivalent of political commissars at agencies rife with politicization and cronyism, including the Departments of Justice and Energy. They sign off (or not) on the release of public records, a process that historically has been non-partisan.
The record is robust of the disgraceful lengths to which political appointees, activist bureaucrats, and academic axe-grinders go to keep taxpayers in the dark about how public money and power is used, often in the name of obtaining more money and power. All of which, of course, beg the rhetorical call to imagine the outrage were it Karl Rove doing these things.
Some ploys in this war on transparency are sophisticated, others comically crude. Many violate the letter, and all of them the spirit of laws enacted to, in the words of one Supreme Court opinion, let the public know what their government is up to. All of them must be exposed, stopped, and what they are hiding laid bare. That is what “transparency” means.