Issa wants answers from White House on e-mails

The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wants more answers from the White House about its e-mail policies.

In a letter to White House counsel Greg Craig, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Monday raised questions about the White House's request for supporters to forward “fishy claims” about healthcare.

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Issa says such a request could have a “chilling” effect on free speech and asked the president to ensure that the e-mails will be stored properly but not used for political purposes.

“To help ease these concerns, please tell us what actions take place or have been discussed in regard to e-mails deemed ‘fishy’ and what safeguards the White House has put in place to insure [sic] no retributive steps are taken against those who express dissent," Issa wrote.

Earlier on Monday the White House announced it was changing its e-mail policies to ensure that advocacy groups could not sign people up to White House e-mail lists without the recipients' permission. It also disabled the e-mail account that had caused the problem, but Issa still wants answers about the stored e-mails it had already received.

Some conservatives have suggested the White House was trying to sign people up for e-mails against their will, or was trying to compile an “enemies list.” Those claims have been vehemently denied by the White House.

In his letter, Issa cited reports that citizens who had not contacted the White House had nevertheless received a healthcare-related e-mail from senior adviser David Axelrod.

“Based on reports of Americans who received this e-mail without having contacted the White House, I am concerned about the possibility that political e-mail address lists are being used for official purposes,” Issa wrote.

The White House on Monday did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Issa's letter.

The e-mail back-and-forth began after a tense exchange between White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Fox News Channel's senior White House correspondent, Major Garrett.

Garrett challenged Gibbs after the reporter heard from a number of Fox viewers who received Axelrod's e-mail without ever signing up for the White House e-mail list.

At the time, Gibbs pushed back, insisting that there had been no illegal coordination or e-mail sharing between Organizing for America — Obama's political wing at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — and the White House.

Gibbs asked to see the e-mails Garrett had received, sparking a heated exchange between them. 

Sam Youngman contributed to this story.

This story was posted at 3:34 and updated at 4:03 p.m.