Pressure from Congress and independent watchdogs continues to mount on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to explain why she maintained a secret email address under the alias "Richard Windsor."
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology sent a letter Tuesday requesting additional information on the secret email addresses, and earlier this month the EPA’s inspector general announced the agency would begin an investigation into the issue.
Chairman Ralph Hall (R., Tex.) and other Republicans on the committee requested additional information on the secret email account, expressing concern that "the potential for confusion, not to mention intentional malfeasance, is enormous."
"While we understand the need for a secondary account for management and communications purposes, your choice to use a false identity remains baffling," the letter states. "We remain concerned about whether EPA has adequately preserved those records and provided appropriate responses to requests for these records. We also questions whether responses to records requests sufficiently connect the alias accounts to the real individual."
Critics are concerned that Jackson may have used a pseudonymous email address to conduct official business in order to skirt disclosure required under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws.
The letter is the second from the House Science Committee. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is also pressing the EPA for information on the email address.
Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington has also condemned Jackson’s use of a pseudonymous email address.
"The fact that others may have engaged in such conduct before her tenure is no justification. ‘Everybody does it’ is an excuse for kindergarteners, not cabinet officials," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.
The EPA’s inspector general announced in a Dec. 13 memo that it would begin an investigation into the affair to determine whether the agency "follows applicable laws and regulations when using private and alias email accounts to conduct official business."
"We said three weeks ago that we welcome any investigation" and that the agency will cooperate fully with the inspector general "as we would with any other investigation," an EPA spokesman told Politico.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a nonprofit think tank, first charged Jackson with using secret email addresses to avoid disclosure under FOIA.
CEI senior fellow and attorney Chris Horner claims Jackson used the alias "Richard Windsor" to conduct official business. The Daily Caller reported that it had found extensive email threads between EPA officials including "Richard Windsor," who does not appear on any EPA staff lists.
Politico later reported "Richard Windsor" is the name of the Jackson family dog.
Horner and CEI are currently suing the EPA to force disclosure of the alleged secret email addresses.
The EPA says the use of secondary email addresses by administrators has been common practice for two decades as well as a necessary practice given the enormous amount of email public accounts receive.
"Given the large volume of emails sent to the public account—more than 1.5 million in fiscal year 2012, for instance—the internal email account is necessary for effective management and communication between the administrator and agency colleagues," an EPA spokeswoman previously told the Washington Free Beacon. "In the case of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, both the public and internal accounts are reviewed for responsive records, and responsive records from both accounts are provided to FOIA requesters."
Requests for comment sent to Jackson’s email address at firstname.lastname@example.org were not immediately returned.