For Immediate Release
Peter Bjork 202.408.5565
CREW Asks for Congressional Investigation Into White House Violations of Federal Records Laws
WASHINGTON - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to
investigate and hold hearings on the extent to which White House staff
violated the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and Federal Records Act
(FRA) by using private email accounts in exchanges with lobbyists and by
holding meetings with lobbyists outside of the White House.
CREW has been involved in litigation against the Bush and Obama White
Houses concerning both the preservation of electronic records and White
House visitor logs.
CREW's letter follows a June 25, 2010 New York Times article revealing
that White House staff routinely use their personal email accounts
rather than their official White House accounts to communicate with
lobbyists to avoid any public scrutiny of this correspondence. In
addition, top White House staff meet with lobbyists at off-campus
locations, including a coffee shop catty-corner to the White House, to
avoid having the visits memorialized in White House visitor logs.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, "It is outrageous that
White House staff are deliberately using personal email accounts - in
violation of the law - to hide the fact that they are in touch with
lobbyists." Sloan continued, "This is what all the administration's
anti-lobbyist rhetoric gets you - less transparency. Rather than being
open and clear about who is influencing White House policy, the White
House is trying to hide who it's really talking to. Even worse, the
public is being suckered with lofty rhetoric about the evils of the same
lobbyists White House officials are meeting with."
Under federal records laws, White House staff are required to
preserve all emails relating to official business. As part of the settlement
of CREW's email suit, the White House revamped its electronic
records management system to capture all federal and presidential
records and claimed its current system prevents employees from accessing
private email accounts. Although last spring it was revealed that
White House aide Andrew McLaughlin had consulted with his former
colleagues at Google about policy matters using his private email
address, the White House said the breach was "inadvertent" and had "no
influence on policy decisions within the federal government." The Times
report undermines that claim.
The Obama administration settled
CREW's lawsuit over White House visitor logs by agreeing to
post all visitor logs online and has frequently touted having the most
transparent White House in history. "While off-campus meetings with
lobbyists are not necessarily illegal," Sloan noted, "they do suggest
the White House can't live with its own anti-lobbyist standards, but
won't admit to that. This is a way for the White House to hide exactly
how much its top staffers do meet with lobbyists." She concluded,
"Congressional hearings would force the administration to come clean
with the American people."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.