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Auditing the EPA

The story of how EPA administrator Lisa Jackson took the pseudonym Richard Windsor in an attempt to avoid the reach of the FOIA Act is hotting up. News emerged today that Jackson and senior colleagues received this memo from auditors

This memorandum is to notify you that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Inspector General, plans to begin an audit of certain EPA electronic records management practices. This assignment is in response to a congressional request.

Our objective is to determine whether EPA follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business.

On this side of the pond, these kinds of investigations invariably end in "lessons learned" rather than heads rolling. I wonder how they do things stateside?

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Reader Comments (13)

Quite possibly call in the monstrous regiment of lawyers and spend 5 years appealing to the Supreme Court, by which time the guilty will have moved on.

Dec 17, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy Old Man

" I wonder how they do things stateside?"

If it's a Republican, they appoint a special prosecutor.

If it's a Democrat, they add it to his resumé, as an enhancement.

Dec 17, 2012 at 8:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

Inspector General Deputy Inspector General Counsel to Inspector General Assistant Inspector General for Congressional and Public Affairs Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Assistant Inspector General for Program Evaluation Office of Inspector General Congressional and Media Liaison Agency Audit Follow-Up Coordinator Audit Follow-Up Coordinators

That is the cc list.

Dec 17, 2012 at 8:52 PM | Registered Commentershub

Gamecock at 8:44 PM says

If it's a Republican, they appoint a special prosecutor.

If it's a Democrat, they add it to his resumé, as an enhancement.

No gamecock that is incorrect. The rule is:-

"When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal."

This rule was introduced quite a few years ago by, if my memory serves correctly(and it always does), the same President who averred that "I'm not a crook." I've just discovered that the same President also said

"I don't think a woman should be in any government job whatever."

so maybe he wasn't always right.

It usually takes an average of 3.14159 comments for right wing political lunacy to be introduced. Today... 2. Sad that so many seem to be so keen to try to prove the execrable Lewandowsky correct.


Dec 17, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commenteracementhead

Gamecock was probably caught up in the definition of "sex" or something. Recent memory and all that can be a bitch.


Dec 17, 2012 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

'On this side of the pond, these kinds of investigations invariably end in "lessons learned" rather than heads rolling. I wonder how they do things stateside?'

Why would you think there would be consequences? The full law is here:
Cornell University FOI text
amended many times since.

The whole thrust of the law is that the government should be open, but there are no penalties (beyond legal fees should you win) if you sue.

It is not the same as the UK. i.e. it is not "illegal" to circumvent FOI, you just get the information if you they try it.

Dec 18, 2012 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

Based on presedence, I would say that even if caught red-handed, nothing will come of it.

Take the case of NASA and FOI requests:

Solomon said that she did so on the basis of legal advice from NOAA attorneys. However, the attorneys denied that they had given Solomon such advice. They asked Solomon for evidence that she had received such advice and she was unable to provide any such evidence. They say observe dryly:

“we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts [of Solomon versus the NOAA attorneys]”

Despite the whining on this thread about "right-wingers", in the States, basically if you're on the same side idealogically as the New York Times and Washington Post, there is no such thing as "investigative reporting".

Dec 18, 2012 at 1:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

Gamecock overstates it a bit. My view: If a Republican does it, it results in a resignation. If a Democrat does it, they have interminable hearings and then say it was an oversight. After promising that they won't do it again, life in Washington goes on.

The general rule, and yes, there are a lot of exceptions, is that for Republicans, appointment to head a government agency or department in the executive branch is a job that comes after they've succeeded in private industry and they can easily return to from whence they came. For Democrats it's the top of the Civil Service ladder they've been climbing all their occupational lives and the humiliation and embarrassment strike much deeper, at least while it's front and center in the public eye. Behind the scenes, Jackson is being celebrated by liberals for cleverness in avoiding oversight.

There is also the racial angle here. Jackson, like Susan Rice who just lost the job for Secretary of State because the Obama Administration sent her out to lie about the attack on the US embassy in Libya, is black. That's an issue that Obama's minions will be raising soon.

Both parties write laws to hem in or entrap the other party. But Democrats are particularly good at it. Occasionally, it comes back to bite them, which I suspect was the case in this instance.

Dec 18, 2012 at 1:48 AM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

EPA v Congress?

Pass the popcorn!

Dec 18, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

I dare say that there is some frantic deleting of external email accounts going on at this very time!?!?!?


Dec 18, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Don Keillor--

In this instance, it's not EPA vs Congress, but EPA vs. the in-house auditor. At EPA, where I worked for 27 years, and probably at most other major Federal Agencies, there is an Office of the Inspector General, usually located on-site, whose function is to oversee Agency activities with respect to financial and ethical dealings. So, for example, an employee may enter a complaint with the IG about something that doesn't look right. The IG is usually appointed by the President, as is the Agency head, so this amounts to asking the Executive Dept. to police itself. This obviously presents possibilities for undue political influence being applied, but my experience has been that the IG generally does useful work in spotting and investigating possibly illegal or unethical practices.

This Administration under Obama appears to be pretty tightly controlled, so no telling what might happen, but the existence of the memo is a pretty big deal. If pressure had already been applied, there would be no memo. Now they will have to carry out their investigation, and some interesting things may come to light.

Dec 18, 2012 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterLance Wallace

At the end of the day, it does not matter what Congress decides. The man responsible for taking action, the Attorney General, Eric Holder, is already in contempt of Congress. Yeah, laws and rules matter.


Dec 19, 2012 at 2:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

"how they do things stateside"

Generally speaking, the corrupt federal gov't we have does what it thinks it can get away with. Occasionally, a sacrificial victim turns up in a park somewhere, or is tossed under the bus to appease the mob. The machine grinds on, in any case.


Dec 19, 2012 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

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