The EPA Is Using Private Emails to Talk to Lobbyists

A recent report from the Daily Caller highlights how the Environmental Protection Agency frequently uses private email accounts to communicate with environmental lobbyists, ducking the transparency and record-keeping requirements that are supposed to bind the agency.

One characteristic email from a lobbyist for green advocacy groups, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), explicitly requested that EPA Senior Counsel Joe Goffman forward an email to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s private account.

“Joe," the email begins, "Would you please send this email to Gina for me? I would have sent it to her directly with a cc to you but I don’t have a private email address for her and would prefer to not use an office email address,” Following that introduction is a message outlining specific concerns about a pending regulation, and how it would impact the author’s clients.

Upon seeing the report, Executive Director of FreedomWorks Foundation Curt Levey, who heads the organization’s regulatory reform project, commented: "Under the best circumstances, the growth of the regulatory state is a threat to the constitutional limits on the power of the federal government. The cronyism and contempt for accountability at these executive branch agencies only makes the problem worse. Not only are the regulatory agencies run by unelected bureaucrats, with no incentive to do right by the American people, but they continue to act in ways that indicate that they think they are above the law."

While the private email server used by Hillary Clinton when she served as Secretary of State may be the most outrageous example, it appears that this type of behavior is far from an anomaly in Washington. Transparency guidelines exist for a good reason; government is uniquely positioned to impose burdens on businesses and individuals, and enforce them with any legal means necessary. Such power is dangerous if unchecked, and so the American people have a right to know what regulators at the EPA are up to. By using private email accounts, the agency robs the public of that ability.

Private communications with lobbyists indicate a desire to cut deals or trade favors far away from the watchful eyes of the citizenry, a motivation that can’t be good for freedom of any kind. The EPA is doing this in more than a few cases, and who knows what other federal agencies are doing the same or worse. So long as government bureaucrats sufficiently cover their tracks, even FOIA requests are unlikely to uncover the truth.

Al this underscores the need for restoring the separation of powers originally intended by America’s Founding Fathers and enshrined in the Constitution – that is, Congress makes the laws and the executive branch executes them. Federal bureaucrats, who have little accountability to voters in the best case and even less when they evade transparency requirements, must be prevented from writing de facto laws under the guise of interpreting legislation.