Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told Congress on Tuesday that she didn’t abuse her official email accounts, nor did she use her own private account to try to circumvent open-records laws.
Ms. Jackson, who used an email under the name “Richard Windsor” at EPA, said she was just following the practice of former administrators of both parties. And she said she tried to make sure that any business mail sent to her own private account was also forwarded to her official account, where it was subject to open-records laws.
“On one hand, there can certainly be honest and reasoned debate over my judgments, and on the other hand, there are some who want to theorize that there is a hidden agenda,” she told the House oversight committee in her prepared statement. “The principle reason I wanted to come here today is to make it perfectly clear that it was my practice to ensure that any official business conducted by me or through my email accounts was appropriately captured for record keeping purposes.”
Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the committee chairman, said the problem began in the Bush administration but, contrary to President Obama’s promises to improve transparency, has gotten worse in the past five years.
Mr. Issa, California Republican, also disputed the assertion that officials have taken care to forward their private emails that pertain to government business to their official accounts.
“Very clearly, emails have been lost,” he said.
Also testifying Tuesday were Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who an internal investigation found regularly used his personal email for government business, and Jonathan Silver, who used to run the Energy Department loan program that provided money for the failed Solyndra project.
Mr. Silver acknowledged regularly using his private email for work but, like Mr. Gensler, said it wasn’t in an effort to avoid scrutiny.
“I occasionally forwarded, or had forwarded to me, documents from work in order to be able to work while traveling, out of the office, or at night and on weekends. I also sent and received some emails asking about logistics, or for updates, or to share an observation. I used my personal email in an effort to be as efficient and productive as possible, not in an attempt to be evasive,” he said in his statement to the committee.
But he acknowledged he wasn’t living up to the legal requirements because he didn’t turn those private emails over as public records while he was at the Energy Department.
“When I left the government two years ago, I did not have a clear understanding of the department’s requirements concerning personal email retention. As soon as I was apprised of these obligations, I immediately turned over all the relevant documents I had both to the Department of Energy and directly to this Committee. It is my understanding that that production satisfied any obligation I may have had under the Federal Records Act,” he said.