The Environmental Protection Agency and its disgraced former boss Lisa Jackson are under fire from lawmakers and activists for, among other reasons, having recently been exposed violating federal law by using bogus identities and e-mail accounts to coordinate propaganda and policy with media allies, “green” groups, and policymakers to advance the Obama administration’s radical “environmental” agenda. Other EPA corruption is also still in the headlines, too, with the agency being criticized for ripping off U.S. taxpayers and foisting more unconstitutional regulations on the economy by working with extremist pseudo-environmental groups using a controversial scheme dubbed “sue and settle.”
The most recent major scandal, which began unraveling late last year after a federal court ruling, involves former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who conveniently announced her resignation in late December. The self-styled “most progressive EPA chief in history” was caught, apparently in violation of federal law, using the fake name “Richard Windsor” and a bogus e-mail account to conspire with allies in the establishment media and friendly policymakers. The shady dealings were part of an effort to promote Jackson and the Obama administration’s wildly unconstitutional policies without being exposed to public scrutiny.
The pseudonym and fake e-mail account scandal, already being called “Windsorgate,” was essentially aimed at skirting federal record-keeping laws barring the use of fake names in official government dealings, according to analysts. The other purpose of the unlawful scheme, first uncovered by a researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, was to conceal the lawless EPA boss’s activities from mandatory public and congressional oversight. After a Freedom of Information Act request and a successful lawsuit by CEI, however, the whole plot is slowly coming to light.
Unsurprisingly, the EPA — created in 1970 by an unconstitutional “executive order” issued by then-President Richard Nixon — is still trying to hide as much of the incriminating evidence as possible using bogus justifications. Among other concerns, the agency has been redacting — blacking out — massive segments of the documents it was forced to release under court order. It flat out refused to release hundreds more.
Indeed, CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner told the Washington Examiner his organization estimates that about 85 percent of the “Richard Windsor” e-mails released last week were redacted. The concealment of the information was “justified,” according to the EPA, under the FOIA’s exemption for documents dealing with a “deliberative process” used in formulating policy — possibly including the lawless policies surrounding the administration’s so-called “war on coal.”
Now, however, lawmakers and watchdog groups are starting to ask serious questions and demand answers. “For the sake of transparency, and of easing the road ahead for the next EPA administrator, we hope the EPA starts providing some answers,”noted CEI media coordinator Nicole Ciandella in a statement published by the Daily Caller, pointing out that the agency continues to stonewall all efforts to get to the truth. Other officials are publicly hammering the EPA as well.
Aside from the CEI, members of Congress are also trying to find out just what was going on at the EPA. Last month, for example, Republicans on the House Science Committee sent yet another letter to Jackson demanding that she hand over the documents — the third official request from the committee lawmakers since November of last year, when the scandal was first becoming a major public concern and a PR nightmare for the agency.
“The use of a false identity raises serious questions about whether the EPA has adequately preserved related records. Despite these legitimate concerns, the EPA has thus far refused to comply with the Committee’s request,” states the January 23 letter signed by six congressmen, adding that continued refusal to comply was “unacceptable” and could result in formal action to force the agency to obey.
The House committee’s letter continued, demanding answers. “As we mentioned in our previous letter, the public trusts that its government will operate in an open and transparent manner,” the lawmakers wrote. “EPA regulations have a significant impact on the everyday lives of Americans, and the agency should implement them in a manner that respects the public’s trust.”
The committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has also been vocal in demanding answers, but so far, few have been forthcoming. “The American public deserves to know whether Administrator Jackson’s secret email accounts were appropriately maintained by the agency according to requirements by federal law. If they have nothing to hide, why not comply with our request?” Rep. Smith wondered. “EPA’s refusal only adds to suspicion that Administrator Jackson’s secret email accounts were intended to evade transparency and circumvent congressional oversight.”
In the Senate, lawmakers are speaking out, too. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), for example, said he thought the EPA alias scandal was the real reason for Jackson’s well-timed resignation in late December. “I think this e-mail issue clearly spurred Lisa Jackson’s resignation,” Sen. Vitter was quoted as saying. “But it’s much broader than her. It’s about a culture of hiding an extreme agenda from Americans because it can’t be sustained in public debate.”
Some critics of the administration are even calling for a proper law-enforcement investigation and potential criminal prosecutions, saying it was obvious that federal law had been violated. However, with Attorney General Eric Holder already facing criminal contempt of Congress charges for covering up the Obama Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” scheme arming certain Mexican drug cartels, the chances of justice being served, at this point at least, appear slim. Holder, in fact, is currently abusing his position as DOJ boss to avoid prosecution himself.
Meanwhile, despite repeatedly promising to run the “most transparent” and “open” administration in history, this is not the first time President Obama’s top officials have been caught trying to unlawfully avoid federal record-keeping laws. As The New American reported in August, scandals swirling around the Department of Energy, for example, are strikingly similar. Top officials there were exposed using private e-mail accounts for official business — again in an apparent effort to unlawfully conceal their shady dealings from the public and Congress.
Another EPA scandal back in the headlines this week is the so-called “sue and settle” scam, used by various agencies and especially the EPA, to rip off taxpayers, provide public money to extremist groups, and implement unconstitutional regulations by fiat. Essentially, the process works like this: A radical green group sues the EPA in court demanding that the agency do something — pass more unconstitutional, economy-destroying regulations, for example. Then, the agency agrees to “settle,” taking the lawless actions that were already being sought by the administration while offering huge taxpayer-funded “settlements” to the organization that sued.
Millions of tax dollars have been funneled to extremist “green” groups using this tactic in recent decades, according to a 2011 official report by the GAO cited by Forbes energy and environment analyst Larry Bell. Among the largest beneficiaries of the scam — aside from the administration in its efforts to foist more lawlessness and pain on the American people — were organizations such as Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce studied the issue and concluded in a report that the “sue and settle” scam was responsible for many of the EPA’s “most controversial, economically significant regulations that have plagued the business community for the past few years.” The study found that among the regulations imposed on the American people using the strategy were restrictions on power plants, refineries, mining operations, cement plants, chemical firms, and numerous other industries and sectors, Bellreported.
Members of Congress have been meekly trying to rein in the out-of-control EPA for years. However, with each successive administration, the rogue, unconstitutional entity continues to usurp more and more power — destroying countless jobs and livesin the process. Critics of the agency, however, say it is time for lawmakers to abolish the EPA altogether. Not only is there no constitutional authority for such an agency, its lawless reign of terror is contributing to the destruction of the already-battered American economy — all with virtually no real benefits to the environment.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at email@example.com.