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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Has Four Government Email Addresses, Which Is Three More Than He Needs

Unlike everyone else, Scott Pruitt apparently can't get enough email.

Aaron Bernstein/REUTERS/NewscomAaron Bernstein/REUTERS/NewscomEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt reportedly has four different government email addresses that he uses, raising concerns over whether the EPA is properly complying with Fredom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for his communications.

The Washington Post reported today that Democrat Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) sent a letter requesting the EPA Inspector General investigate Pruitt's email habits.

"We write to share our deep concern over Administrator Pruitt's reported use of multiple email accounts," the two senators wrote. "It is imperative that there be an investigation into whether the agency has properly searched these email addresses for responsive documents in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests."

According to the Democrat senators and an EPA staffer, Pruitt's various noms de internet include his official address, tpruitt.scott@epa.gov, as well as three others: esp7@epa.gov, adm14pruitt@epa.gov and sooners7@epa.gov.

It's common, although not uncontroversial, for senior administration officials to have a secret government email address in addition to their public ones. The justification, every administration since the Clinton administration has said, is to be able to conduct regular work without getting buried under the thousands of emails they receive daily in their public inboxes.

For example, former Obama EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an email address under the alias "Richard Windsor," which remained secret until it was dug up through a FOIA request.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee held numerous hearings into Jackson's and other EPA officials' use of private and secret email. The EPA Inspector General launched an investigation as well, although it concluded in 2013 that there was "no evidence that the EPA used, promoted or encouraged the use of private 'non-governmental' email accounts to circumvent records management."

Jackson's conduct nevertheless drew criticism for open government groups, such as the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

"The fact that others may have engaged in such conduct before her tenure is no justification. 'Everybody does it' is an excuse for kindergarteners, not cabinet officials," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement at the time.

Where this gets thorny is the issue of Freedom of Information Act compliance. Government FOIA officers should be searching these alternate email addresses when responding to FOIA requests, but how are watchdog groups and public records requesters supposed to know they are, if the existence of alternate or private email addresses isn't revealed?

But the practice continued, despite the assurances from White House press secretaries that the Obama administration was indeed "the most transparent administration in history." Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius also used secret government email addresses.

Pruitt's case, though, raises even more questions. What purpose would having three alternate government emails serve? One can only imagine, and nothing particularly good springs to mind. If Pruitt is using his myriad email addresses to talk shop with industry officials he is supposed to regulating, and EPA FOIA officials aren't searching those addresses, that would be, in a word, bad.

As I've written before, FOIA compliance and federal records management is a dry subject, but it's at the heart of critical news investigations every day, both at the local and national level.

Hillary Clinton was pilloried for her mystifying decision to use a private email server as Secretary of State. One might have ever-so-briefly thought that the Trump administration, which swept into power in part because of Clinton's email woes, might have been more disciplined or at least self-aware about its duty to follow the Federal Records Act, but that has not been the case.

Even if these are not deliberate attempts to hide government business from prying eyes, they give the unavoidable impression of unseemliness.

During one House Oversight hearing where Jackson testified, she was asked about an email from her "Windsor" account to a Siemens lobbyist, asking the lobbyist to contact her through her home email. Jackson said they were old friends.

"I believe personal friends should use personal emails," she said.

Pruitt and other government officials may feel the same way, but the honor code is no way to enforce transparency laws, especially when the public has no confidence in their honor.

Photo Credit: Aaron Bernstein/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Crusty Juggler||

    What purpose would having three alternate government emails serve?

    One can't adequately troll the TreasonNN comments with one email address, CJ.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Pruitt is Rev. Artie? I changed my mind, he should resign.

  • Get lit||

    Pruitt created two new deputy positions and paid his friends insane amounts of money.

  • MarioLanza||

    What a stupid article. ALL are .gov emails. This is in stark contrast to Hillary's private email and server.

  • markm23||

    The suspicion is that not all of these accounts get searched in response to FOIA requests, so he could be using one of these to conduct government business "in secret". That's similar in principle, but I expect much smaller in scale, to Hillary running a private server for her official e-mail in order to dodge FOIA - but it would make it much more difficult for Pruitt to delete 30,000 e-mails. So this is a much smaller scandal than Hillary, but it's still a scandal.

    It also means that any classified e-mails have the dubious protection of government security, rather than certainly being wide open to any competent hacker like Hillary's e-mail - so there's no counterpart to what to me as by far the worst Hillary scandal, IMO as someone who once held a Top Secret clearance for documentation about various military electronics systems. Not that the EPA administrator has a need to know very many secrets - unlike the Secretary of State, who often must be a party to Top Secret diplomatic and military intelligence summaries, which cannot alway sufficiently conceal our sources, and who could put American personnel in foreign embassies and consulates in danger simply by exposing their itineraries. IOW, do you think it was a coincidence that a minor diplomatic outpost in Libya was attacked - by so-called "rioters" armed with military weapons, including RPGs - just when the ambassador was visiting? One way or another, they knew he would be there.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    The Washington Post reported today that Democrat Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) sent a letter requesting the EPA Inspector General investigate Pruitt's email habits.

    You know who else had questionable email habits?

  • Crusty Juggler||

  • Just Say'n||

    Was that wrong?

  • Don't look at me.||

    Hey, maybe he just wanted to stand out from the crowd?

  • Rebel Scum||

    attaches pic of penis to his job app

    I didn't read further but this my have been a relevant move, depending on what the job was.

  • Crusty Juggler||

  • Crusty Juggler||

  • SimonP||

    Didn't read past that part, huh?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    "The fact that others may have engaged in such conduct before her tenure is no justification. 'Everybody does it' is an excuse for kindergarteners, not cabinet officials," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement at the time.

    Sloan went on to say, "If your friends jumped off a bridge that that mean you would jump off a bridge, too?"

  • gaoxiaen||

    Depends on the gender, height of the bridge and the size of the bikini.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    It's common, although not uncontroversial, for senior administration officials to have a secret government email address in addition to their public ones. The justification, every administration since the Clinton administration has said, is to be able to conduct regular work without getting buried under the thousands of emails they receive daily in their public inboxes.

    Has no one in government heard of email filters?

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Email filters are not anywhere near perfect. As a private citizen I keep multiple emails for exactly the same reason -- the email I have to give out in the course of daily life to corporations and the like, and the one I give to people I actually want to be able to contact me.

  • Morbo||

    Hell, I have five or six different emails. Some are used as burners to give out to sites I don't trust not to sell my email to spammers, one for business, one for private stuff, etc.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Nobody needs 6 kinds of emails.

  • Chaz||

    Not all email clients support it but I know in gmail you can use periods and plus signs to create filters instead of burners like:

    Original address: emotionalanimal@gmail.com
    Filtered addresses: emotional.animal@gmail.com or e.motionalanimal@gmail or emaotionalanimal+geico@gmail.com or emotionalanimal+spam@gmail.com

    which you can also use to track who is selling your email if you're curious.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Hillary Clinton was pilloried for her mystifying decision to use a private email server as Secretary of State. One might have ever-so-briefly thought that the Trump administration, which swept into power in part because of Clinton's email woes, might have been more disciplined

    There is not the remotest comparison between what Hillary did and this. There is no indication that any of Pruitt's emails is not present on a government server. A FOIA request for all Pruitt's emails will turn them up from all the addresses, and the explanation about using internal and external addresses is plausible. Clinton's purpose was hardly "mystifying", she was clearly hiding emails from all FOIA requests, and even after her setup was discovered, she deleted most of them before investigators could see them.

    But thanks for displaying Reason's time-tested tactic of helping the leftists by downplaying their terrible behavior.

  • SimonP||

    You, also, display many of the classic Trumpist tactics, including: casually misstating the facts, making assertions that have never been proven, and leaping to conclusions of innocence long before they're merited.

    Maybe the multiple e-mails will amount to a big nothingburger. Maybe they'll go in and figure out that everything that should have been picked up was getting captured. I mean, we can always hope that Pruitt hasn't so effectively corrupted the EPA that we can't trust it to check itself on this kind of request.

    But you've got to be a moron not to think it isn't, y'know, possibly fishy, what with the straight-out lying they've been doing to cover for Pruitt's expensive traveling arrangements and paranoid security detail, the statements made to industry groups, and all the rest. This is not a guy who deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  • Sevo||

    "But you've got to be a moron not to think it isn't, y'know, possibly fishy, what with the straight-out lying they've been doing to cover for Pruitt's expensive traveling arrangements and paranoid security detail, the statements made to industry groups, and all the rest. This is not a guy who deserves the benefit of the doubt."

    Sort of missed the point there, did you? You seem to display many of the classic fucking loser tactics, such as lying and making shit up:
    "Hillary Clinton was pilloried for her mystifying decision to use a private email server as Secretary of State. One might have ever-so-briefly thought that the Trump administration, which swept into power in part because of Clinton's email woes, might have been more disciplined or at least self-aware about its duty to follow the Federal Records Act, but that has not been the case."
    The hag purposely set up com *outside* of the .gov servers, which is qualitatively different from maintaining separate email accounts on the same servers.
    He gets no 'benefit of the doubt'; his addys are noted and available through any search of that server.
    Are you a knave or a fool?

  • SimonP||

    He gets no 'benefit of the doubt'; his addys are noted and available through any search of that server.

    Which is something you know how, exactly?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    The same way you claim to know that Hillary's server was set up only for convenience, which even of true (it isn't) doesn't change the illegality.

  • CarolAnn||

    What did he misrepresent? Hillary never had a .gov account.

  • SimonP||

    He misrepresented the intent of using Hillary's servers (the provided explanation was that it was more technically convenient to use the separate servers, and as far as I know this explanation was never proven to be false) as well as who was responsible for deleting the e-mails and how many e-mails were deleted.

    Look, I'm not necessarily defending Hillary here. The record of evidence we have publicly doesn't conclusively prove her innocence or guilt. But it's just bullshit to take those years of investigation into her e-mail practices, without producing anything other than an unusually stern and unprofessional public admonishment, and assert that it all somehow proved the worst possible account for what she did and why she did it. That's straight-up "fake news" right there. That's what happens when you don't even bother to read past the headlines on Breitbart.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "the provided explanation was that it was more technically convenient to use the separate servers, and as far as I know this explanation was never proven to be false"

    Yes, that's why everybody sets up their own private servers, instead of signing up with a webmail service like Gmail. Because it's so convenient!

    I mean, come on, sure, it wasn't proven false in the sense of formal logic, but what is, in the real world? It still didn't pass the laugh test.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    It was proven false. She had to use multiple devices to access the different accounts. Since when is more work and complication convenience?

  • Social Justice is neither||

    when you're hiding criminal acts tied directly to you government job.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I mean, come on, sure, it wasn't proven false in the sense of formal logic, but what is, in the real world? It still didn't pass the laugh test.

    -- signed, Brett "Show Me The Birth Certificate" Bellmore

  • Rebel Scum||

    Maybe the multiple e-mails will amount to a big nothingburger.

    So long as they are public domain accounts, they are absolutely already a "nothingburger" as they are subject to foia and government records-keeping law.

    we can always hope that Pruitt hasn't so effectively corrupted the EPA that we can't trust it to check itself on this kind of request.

    Speaking of making assertions that have never been proven. . .

  • SimonP||

    Speaking of making assertions that have never been proven. . .

    I mean, I hope we can assume that the guy who kicked out government-funded scientists so that he could install industry experts on his scientific advisory panel, for "conflict of interest" reasons; who is pushing for a rule that would categorically exclude from the rulemaking process the consideration of any study where confidentiality of patient medical histories was maintained; and whose "sheriff" is apparently responsible for explaining why Pruitt needs to fly first class, stay in the best hotels, and dither about in Oklahoma, etc., is not also hounding the pencil-pushers responsible for filling FOIA requests to provide some kind of obscure bureaucratic explanation for why some but not all of his government e-mail addresses should be included in their recordkeeping and FOIA fulfillment reviews. I'll admit I haven't seen any evidence that he is. But given that his broad strategy to the EPA is to fuck it up so royally that whoever follows him will spend years undoing the damage, I think I have a right to be skeptical.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    You mean he removed conflicts of interest, eliminated the corrupt and dishonest process of sue and settle, and following good scientific practice now requires the science used to determine policy actually be openly available to all to critique. And nice try hiding behind that privacy canard. Personally identifying information is routinely scrubbed from studies all the time.

    I can see why you're upset. Roaches don't like it when the lights are turned on.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I always figure nobody older than 12 or so really falls for that "draining the swamp" nonsense . . . until I read some reason.com comments, and recognize how deplorable some levels of gullibility are.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Wiped with a cloth. FIFY.

  • Sevo||

    "....despite the assurances from White House press secretaries that the Obama administration was indeed "the most transparent administration in history.""

    Hahahahahahhh. HaHAHAhhhahahahah. Whew. Snirkle, snort...
    Never gets old!

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    +1 broken IRS hard drive (happy tax day)

  • Agammamon||

    + 6 dozen more broken IRS hard drives.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius also used secret government email addresses... Pruitt's case, though, raises even more questions. What purpose would having three alternate government emails serve? One can only imagine, and nothing particularly good springs to mind. If Pruitt is using his myriad email addresses to talk shop with industry officials he is supposed to regulating, and EPA FOIA officials aren't searching those addresses, that would be, in a word, bad.

    1. Four is not "myriad". Myriad comes from the Greek word for 10,000.

    2. Are those same questions not raised by Lynch's and Sebelius' cases? Then how is Pruitt "raising even more questions"?

  • Just Say'n||

    You got him on the first point. A myriad is a myriad

  • Paulpemb||

    At least they all seem to be in his own name.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Diane Reynolds likes this.

  • Sevo||

    "At least they all seem to be in his own name."
    Yeah, if he's trying to hide something, we really don't have anything to worry about. He's horrible at it.

  • Morbo||

    Meh, I understand the reasoning for at least two: one public, and one private that's still reachable via FOIA. Four is a bit much, but to say that they should have only one really is kind of unreasonable.

    And as other's have mentioned, what Hillary did is completely different. Her sin wasn't having multiple emails, but 1) using a private email hosted on a private server to conduct government business in a flagrant attempt to avoid FOIA, and 2) Illegally using her private server to send and receive classified documents, which is an act that would have landed anyone junior to her in federal prison.

  • gormadoc||

    It wouldn't land any government official in prison. It's rare for officials to be arrested for not following procedure, no matter how egregious. Anyone who tries to pursue that gets someone else on their own ass, and besides, it's not like they have principles. They just want to be reelected and, sadly, people don't care enough about that kind of thing. They'd rather be catered too.

  • Morbo||

    It landed Petraeus in prison. He was pretty damn high up.

  • DenverJ||

    He didn't go to prison. Two years probation and $100k fine.

  • Morbo||

    Ah, yeah, that's right. He still had to resign, got arrested and convicted. That's way more than ever happened to Hillary.

  • Sevo||

    "He didn't go to prison. Two years probation and $100k fine."

    Yeah, he didn't have the hag's posse.

  • Mickey Rat||

    ""The fact that others may have engaged in such conduct before her tenure is no justification. 'Everybody does it' is an excuse for kindergarteners, not cabinet officials," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement at the time."

    Hilary Clinton: "But Colin Powell did it too!"

  • Sevo||

    ""The fact that others may have engaged in such conduct before her tenure is no justification. 'Everybody does it' is an excuse for kindergarteners, not cabinet officials," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement at the time."

    Regardless, what is the foul here? WTF is the problem?
    All the accounts are in his name; did people get when pols had multiple phone numbers?
    Hang the guy for mis-spending taxpayer money if that's what he's done. Don't drum up sympathy for him from some TDS-inspired whining.

  • TLBD||

    Good point on the phone numbers.

    Maybe he should only have one physical address too. Sorry, Scott, you need to sell your other homes if you want to work in government.

  • Mickey Rat||

    All they seem to have is an insinuation that Pruitt might have hidden one or more of those email from FOIA searches. It does not seem to be any deviation from mandatory standards.

  • TLBD||

    tpruitt.scott@epa.gov --- Public mail address

    esp7@epa.gov --- Personal shit address (meetings, dinner, etc)

    adm14pruitt@epa.gov Inter-office mail address

    sooners7@epa.gov. Spam mail address

    Notice the one thing in common?? @epa.gov!

    I could give a shit how many he has as long as they are attributed to him properly.

  • John||

    And they are all on a government server and available for search and release to the public.

  • Tony||

    Work email shenanigans?! THE crime of the century and STILL, IOKIYAR.

  • Rebel Scum||

    So far as we know, Pruitt only has public domain email addresses and hasn't 1) conducted public business via a private address 2) funneled classified documents through an illegal private email server to avoid foia or 3) destroyed emails related to his work at the epa, all of which are felonies. Your snark is unfounded, but you already knew that.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    If Trump was using a private email under an alias to communicate government work. Liberal heads would explode.

  • Praveen R.||

    Pruitt is a disgrace. I dont see being libertarian as synonymous with giving a big corporation the right to pollute without paying their fair costs of the cleanup. Maybe the EPA has had some dumb regulations in some areas. But the solution is not to gut the EPA of any integrity. YOu work to improve the EPA. Not make it toothless and corrupt and doing favor to big companies.
    Libertarian should be for the individual and excellence that such individuality brings. it doesn't mean doing favors to big organizations whether they are the government or a private corporation. Frequently libertarians here shill for big companies just because they are private. A big corporation can just be as damaging to individuality and true competition because they can work the rules.

    Pruitt is catering to those who can lobby for their self interest.We talk about government waste and yet I see many free market republicans give this bastard a free pass on corrupt practices and spending irresponsibly our taxpayer money.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    because they can work the rules.

    Exactly. When bigger or better connected can work a rule more effectively than smaller less political entities, it's a bad rule and should be gotten rid of or simplified so it can be easily and orthogonally applied.

    The EPA is already a cesspool of crony regulation. The fact that the Pruitt is so hated is probably the thing that recommends him the most.

    Being in favor of a good environment does NOT mean being in favor of the EPA in 2018.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Hillary Clinton was pilloried for her mystifying decision to use a private email server as Secretary of State. One might have ever-so-briefly thought that the Trump administration, which swept into power in part because of Clinton's email woes, might have been more disciplined or at least self-aware about its duty to follow the Federal Records Act, but that has not been the case."

    Totally comparable.

    Hillary illegally takes all her government emails off of government servers, including hundreds of classified documents. Something a peasant would have gone to prison for for centuries, if they had avoided execution for treason.

    Pruitt uses multiple email addresses, all on the same epa.gov domain, all within government record keeping, all available for FOIA requests.

    "Government FOIA officers should be searching these alternate email addresses when responding to FOIA requests, but how are watchdog groups and public records requesters supposed to know they are, if the existence of alternate or private email addresses isn't revealed?"

    Because presumably their requests would target emails to specific *persons* or *positions*, not email addresses. Is this not the case?

  • Rebel Scum||

    all on the same epa.gov domain

    Speaking of, did Jackson keep hers on the epa.gov domain? I don't recall.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I don't see it specified in the article.

  • Rebel Scum||

    Which Is Three More Than He Needs

    Someone is feeling The Bern.

    Hillary Clinton was pilloried for her mystifying decision to use a private email server as Secretary of State.

    Mystifying? You mean HIGHLY illegal. The woman should be in federal prison for that, among other things.

    For example, former Obama EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an email address under the alias "Richard Windsor,"

    Which is exactly the same as tpruitt.scott@epa.gov, esp7@epa.gov, adm14pruitt@epa.gov and sooners7@epa.gov.. . .

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I seriously do not see the problem here. All of the email addresses are hosted by the government's own system, properly archived, and accessible under FOIA searches. It's nothing at all like having a secret email address so that people won't know to search for emails under your dog's name, or privately hosting your own email and deliberately not backing up to the government archives.

    So he's got 4 official email addresses, for different purposes. Whatever floats his boat, email addresses aren't a scarce resource, or particularly expensive.

  • John||

    It is well documented that the Obama administration used private email addresses to communicate with environmental and other interest groups to avoid transparency laws. Pruitt having too many official email addresses is a problem how?

    It is still an official email and will come up on any FOIA search. This is in no way comparable to Hillary's use of a private server or Lisa Jackson's use of fake private email addresses. This article is a horrible example of false equivalency even for Reason.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    A fourth email account was created for use by the Administrator but was superseded and never used beyond three test emails. When we receive a FOIA request all accounts are searched before we respond to the FOIA request."

    So it's really 3 and yes, reason is desperate for an equivalence.

  • Pat001||

    This is nothing more than a couple Democrats attempting to gin up scandal and establish moral equivalence. The Washington Post knows this is a non-story, or certainly should know. Care to guess how many emails the head of the EPA gets in a week? Hundreds? Thousands?

    Pruitt has email accounts that aren't publicized or else it would be impossible for him to communicate with his staff and for his staff to communicate with him. According to the article, Pruitt's accounts are epa.gov accounts so those accounts are being captured in a .gov system in accordance with Federal Records Act requirements and responsive to FOIA requests.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Yes, and the Washington Post running with stupid Democratic talking points I can understand. They went off the deep end in 2016, and never looked back. They're so deep in the tank for the Democratic party they're diving into magma by now.

    What offends me is Reason running with stupid Democratic talking points. Way back when I used to be a dead tree subscriber. I come back after a long period away, just because I enjoy the Volokh Conspiracy, and what do I find?

    Reason has almost totally lost it, and is halfway to being a DNC propaganda mill.

  • Violent Sociopath||

    This is a stupid post and CJ should feel stupid for having written it.

    I have no fewer than six email addresses, for the purpose of bucketing and filtering incoming messages more efficiently. And I'm 100% certain that the amount of email I receive in any given week is positively dwarfed by the amount received by even the lowest-profile deputy assistant federal paper-shuffler, never mind somebody like Pruitt.

    As long as all of Pruitt's email addresses are on the government's own systems, and therefore subject to government archival laws/policies, who fucking gives a shit how many of them he has? It's not as if they're non-trivially expensive to create or maintain.

    Even if these are not deliberate attempts to hide government business from prying eyes, they give the unavoidable impression of unseemliness.

    No, they don't. They give the unavoidable impression that the people bitching about this kind of thing are either so catastrophically ignorant of technology that it's miraculous they don't electrocute themselves trying to operate a toaster, or are partisan jagoffs trying to magnify somebody's unremarkable digital lifestyle preferences into a scandal.

  • buybuydandavis||

    The last is the impression I got.

  • Comrade Cosmoturf||

    Democrats' Achilles heel is email. It only seems to confuse and frighten them.

    Its terrifying considering most of their party are lawyers and supposedly 'educated'. It's like not being able to use or understand a pencil in the 1950s.

    I predict the Republicans will continue to win big at elections, as long as they can manage to keep their own smart phones at least partially dislodged from their own assholes.

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