EDITORIAL: Government in the shadows

The EPA’s fake email accounts demand an accounting

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Richard Windsor was a model employee at the Environmental Protection Agency. He was so beloved by his colleagues that the agency awarded him the title “scholar of ethical behavior,” and bestowed several cybersecurity certifications on him.

But Mr. Windsor is not a real person. From the sleuths at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, we learned that Richard Windsor is the email alias of Lisa P. Jackson, then the EPA administrator. Mrs. Jackson assumed the bogus identity to evade scrutiny from congressional oversight committees while coordinating her job duties with left-wing environmental activists. That doesn’t sound like “ethical behavior,” and it may have been illegal.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Christopher Horner discovered the sham while researching a book, “The Liberal War Against Transparency.” Mrs. Jackson may have learned the trick of creating a fraudulent identity from an earlier EPA administrator, Carol Browning, who used fake emails to conduct official government business in the Clinton administration. Both women were evading at least the spirit, and maybe the letter, of the Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees the public’s right to know what government is doing with its money.

With a budget of $8 billion, the EPA and its army of 20,000 bureaucrats are doing a lot, and most of it is not good. It imposes so much red tape that it costs private companies $353 billion to comply with the law. Automakers must regularly redesign their cars and trucks to meet changing fuel-economy targets, and coal plants will soon have to shut down lest they violate revised air-quality rules. With entire industries at its mercy, openness is essential.

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, a Republican, argues that Mrs. Jackson and her agency showed “an absolute disregard for transparency with their email practices. But this one is pretty bizarre.” As the top Republican on the committee that oversees the EPA, Mr. Vitter is trying to extract information from the unaccountable bureaucracy. “There are still a lot of unanswered transparency questions,” he says, “and [Mrs.] Jackson’s nominated replacement, Gina McCarthy, is responsible for answering them and reinforcing transparency as a priority for the future of the agency.”

Bizarre as it may be, it’s nothing strange to the Obama administration, which has taken extraordinary efforts to hide its work from the public. The White House asserted executive privilege to help the Department of Justice conceal critical information pertaining to the agency’s gunrunning in the failed Fast and Furious scheme. The State Department is ignoring a congressional subpoena demanding the release of documents pertaining to the Benghazi scandal — all to protect those who misled the American people as to the cause of the terrorist attack on our diplomatic mission in Libya. The administration has cracked down on whistleblowers to discourage employees from coming forward, but those who have paint a disturbing picture.

The Washington Times

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