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A liberal watchdog has called for an investigation into whether White House employees are using personal e-mail accounts to contact lobbyists in violation of federal law.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to House Oversight Committee chairman Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) Monday asking them to initiate an investigation into whether White House employees used personal e-mail accounts to contact lobbyists in violation of the Presidential Records Act (PRA).
The letter also takes White House staff to task for meeting with lobbyists in nearby coffee shops instead of in the White House, where the meetings would be recorded in the White House visitor logs.
“By having off-the-record meetings and e-mail exchanges with lobbyists, the White House is attempting [to] reap the benefits of conversations and interactions with knowledgeable lobbyists while publicly promoting the belief that the White House maintains a discreet distance from those very same lobbyists,” CREW executive director Melanie Sloan writes.
The letter came in response to allegations first reported by the New York Times last week. According to the report, lobbyists routinely get e-mails from White House staff members’ personal accounts rather than official accounts that can eventually become public record. As part of a settlement with CREW over missing Bush administration e-mails, the White House assured the watchdog that its system prevents employees from accessing personal e-mail accounts.