Windsor Knot Tightens

Another EPA official using private email

Jared Blumenfeld /
February 26, 2013

Yet another top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official used a personal email address to conduct government business, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosures reveal.

EPA Region 9 administrator Jared Blumenfeld used his personal Comcast email account to send a news article to former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s secret "Richard Windsor" email account.

The email was discovered within a tranche of thousands of emails from Jackson’s alias email account disclosed by the EPA earlier this month in response to a FOIA request by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

Several congressional committees and watchdog groups say Jackson’s secret "Richard Windsor" account may violate federal records law and runs contrary to the spirit of open government.

"Here we see yet another example of using personal emails for official business," said Sen. David Vitter (R., La.). "The EPA instructs its employees to 'not use any outside e-mail account to conduct official Agency business,' but we keep seeing top EPA officials who must be attempting to dodge the agency's mandatory recordkeeping policy,"

CEI senior fellow Christopher Horner, who first noted the existence of secret EPA email addresses in his book, The Liberal War on Transparency, said he hopes the disclosures will push the agency to better follow transparency laws.

"Recent past practice is of fighting us at every turn, to the point of legal absurdity and even after activist-employees decide they're better off quitting to avoid proper searches of private email accounts and computers used in their public service," Horner said. "We shall see if the agency is getting right with the law thanks to this experience, or still thumbing the bureaucratic/ideological nose at it."

Horner has filed a FOIA request seeking emails from Blumenfeld's private account in connection to his official duties at the EPA.

Blumenfeld is the latest EPA official to be ensnared in a widening probe into transparency failures at the agency.

An EPA spokeswoman said the Blumenfeld was simply passing along a news article, not conducting any official business.

"This is a 21 century way of sharing news clips with your colleagues," the EPA spokeswoman said. "There's nothing wrong with this."

EPA Region 8 administrator James Martin resigned last week while under congressional investigation for using his personal email address to conduct agency business.

Bob Perciasepe, the current acting EPA administrator, also used a private account to send emails to other EPA officials.

An EPA spokeswoman said Martin resigned for "personal reasons" and denied he regularly used his private account for government business.

"As detailed in public filings, the regional administrator does not use his personal email account to conduct official business," the EPA spokeswoman wrote. "That Mr. Martin responded to one email sent to his personal email account to confirm a meeting that appears on his official government calendar does not alter that fact."

The EPA also said Jackson’s secondary, non-public email address was standard practice—and necessary because of the millions of messages that flood her public inbox.

Blumenfeld, Martin, Perciasepe, and Jackson’s alleged actions are at odds with multiple executive branch and agency directives.

"EPA has a clear and consistent policy framework against the use of nongovernmental email systems for official EPA business," the agency wrote to the Government Accountability Office in 2008.

EPA political appointees were instructed by the Obama administration in 2009 to "not use any outside email account to conduct official agency business."

The EPA also sent an agency-wide email reminding employees the "EPA prohibits the use of non-EPA email systems when conducting agency business."

The Daily Caller first identified Jackson’s secret alias in November.

Politico later reported that "Richard Windsor" is the name of the Jackson family dog.

The EPA inspector general is currently investigating Jackson’s use of the secret email address, as are several congressional committees.

Jackson stepped down as EPA administrator in December.