Critics are leaping on private emails from the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency that seem to show her using the alias of “Richard Windsor” to communicate with people outside the government.
Messages released Wednesday show former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson using the Windsor email account to talk with people who would later serve in the Obama administration.
During her tenure at the EPA, Jackson occasionally used the secondary email account in correspondence with staff.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who released the emails, claims that Jackson crossed the line by using the account to communicate with outside officials.
"EPA has shown an absolute disregard for transparency with their email practices, but this one is pretty bizarre,” said Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, in a statement.
“We also know now that Lisa Jackson used the alias ‘Richard Windsor’ to correspond outside of the EPA, including with environmental activists. There are still a lot of unanswered transparency questions, and Jackson’s replacement, nominee Gina McCarthy, is responsible for answering them and reinforcing transparency as a priority for the future of the Agency.”
In one released email, the founder of a marketing strategy firm writes "Richard, Please pass this on to Lisa Jackson. For some reason, her personal email does not seem to like to get emails from me!"
In her response, Jackson, writing from the Windsor account, did not correct him about Richard Windsor's identity.
An EPA official said Jackson regularly identified herself and denied that she tried to hide her identity.
The emails also show that Jackson used the account to correspond with people and groups outside the government, including Cass Sunstein, who would later lead the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The soon-to-be regulations chief referred to the Windsor email account as her "special email" in a February, 2009, correspondence.
Jackson also sent emails to Michelle DePass, an official with the Ford Foundation's community and resource development program who has since been confirmed by the Senate as an EPA assistant administrator.
Critics have taken issue with a perceived lack of transparency from officials at the EPA and criticized the agency's acting Administrator Robert Perciasepe and a former senior regional official, James Martin, for use of personal email addresses.
McCarthy, whose nomination is being held up by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), told a congressional hearing in April, "I do not conduct business through personal email."
EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson claimed that officials' use of personal emails was purely for routine matters like sending news clippings. "This is how you share news articles in the 21st century," she said. "There's nothing wrong here."
The EPA maintains that records for an administrator's secondary
government email account are subject to public records requests, and
that for more than a decade it has been standard to grant an
administrator a private government email account in addition to their
"The email address for the public account is posted on EPA's website and is used by hundreds of thousands of Americans to send messages to the Administrator," Johnson said.
"The internal account is an everyday, working email account of the Administrator to communicate with staff and other government officials."
— This story wasd upated at 5:08 p.m.