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Liberal Watchdog Questions White House Gmail Use 283

Posted by timothy
from the it-cannot-be-it-must-not-be dept.
MexiCali59 writes "Liberal watchdog CREW has joined Republican Congressman Darrell Issa in calling for an investigation into whether White House staffers regularly use private email accounts to communicate with lobbyists. The allegations, first reported last week by the New York Times, would likely constitute a violation of federal law as well as an ethics pledge created by Obama upon taking office last year."
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Liberal Watchdog Questions White House Gmail Use

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  • No Surprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by milbournosphere (1273186) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:34PM (#32748368)
    I've learned to ignore the bulk of what the President pledges when it comes to administration transparency. That was a campaign promise that I don't feel he lived up to at all.
    • Re:No Surprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:52PM (#32748568)
      You mean there are promises he has kept?
      Government transparency? Ummm, no
      If you like your health insurance, you can keep it? Umm, no
      No lobbyists in the Obama Administration? Umm, no
      Close Guantanomo within a year? Umm, no
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BobMcD (601576)

        If you like your health insurance, you can keep it? Umm, no

        This one is amusing, by the way. It is technically true. However if you change any single feature, ZING, you're under the new law. Good luck outlasting that medical price inflation for more than a few years...

        • Re:No Surprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Surt (22457) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:35PM (#32749142) Homepage Journal

          Interesting that both you and the gp apparently read that campaign promise as an employer. I always assumed he meant it for the employees, for which it is, generally, quite true.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          So? with the new law you can STILL KEEP YOUR CURRENT HEALTH CARE PLAN.

          I suggest you read the damn thing.

          • Re:No Surprise... (Score:4, Informative)

            by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:54PM (#32749366)

            So?? So???

            There's no triviality here. You could keep your old plan, yes, but the changes that the bill causes would make that a colossally stupid move. The implicit promise was that you could keep your FREEDOM to choose a plan you liked. This is decidedly not the case, because your current rate and benefits aren't going to keep you happy for very long. Again, due to the inflation we're inevitably about to see.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Americano (920576)
          I was always curious about how the claim that "we're going to reduce the cost of healthcare" squares with "nothing about your coverage today will change."

          How do you extend coverage to 30 million extra people, not change any existing plans, and end up with the aggregate costing less than it used to?

          Cost (N + 30,000,000) < Cost (N) seems like the old "sell it at a loss but make it up in volume!" strategy.
          • Re:No Surprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:18PM (#32750272)

            It goes deeper than this as well. Imagine the immediate implications of 'guaranteed issue for children'. While it is certainly compassionate to provide insurance automatically to even the most gravely ill child, the charity will stop at the hospital's bills to the insurer. There is an assumption of profit on the part of the insurer, but once that runs out rates will either have to go up or the insurer will have to go out of business.

            Gravely ill, yet previously uninsured children are generally declined today because caring for them costs an inordinate amount of money. Passing a law that bars denying them isn't going to make the bills disappear. All it will do is drive for-profit businesses into reconsidering their goals. Many will either fold, or more likely, will simply stop offering coverage for children, and individuals of any age, whatsoever.

            "Keep your plan" indeed.

      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:55PM (#32748620)
        I like my health insurance. They don't let doctors interfere in my patient-insurer relationship.
      • by Karunamon (1845630) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:22PM (#32748988)
        No wharrgarbl like political wharrgarbl, amirite? Read this. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/ [politifact.com]
      • Re:No Surprise... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:58PM (#32749434)

        Yes. PolitiFact has what they call an Obamameter [politifact.com], which tracks promises Obama made while campaigning. I realize it's fun to point to specific things you don't like and say that Obama has kept no promises, but that's dishonest.

        You can argue that on some large issues, Obama has backtracked (such as his apparent desire to continue the ridiculous power grab of the executive during the Bush administration), but don't lie and say Obama has kept no promises. You look better (at least to those who don't already agree with you) if you're willing to be reasonable.

        Disclaimers should not be necessary for posts like this, but since irrationality always pops up on political threads:
        I voted for Obama in 2008, but only because I wanted McCain to be crushed after his ridiculous choice of VP candidate.
        I will vote for Obama in 2012 only if the Republicans put a Palin-like character on the ticket. I've been unhappy with some of Obama's decisions.
        I am not a Democratic/Obama apologist. To the people who believe that if you approve of anything a politician does, you approve of everything he does, you need to do a better job of understanding how the world works.

  • by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:36PM (#32748392) Homepage Journal

    I thought this was how every politician operated? Palin, The previous white house, etc, all used non-government assigned email addresses to avoid archiving and disclosure laws.

    --jeffk++

    • by Meshach (578918) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:40PM (#32748426)
      I think the point is that Obama pledged to stop this from happening and it hasn't.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by oldspewey (1303305)

        And?

        Here in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaigned back in 2006 on a platform of "transparency and accountability." Since taking office, he has proceeded to dismantle numerous democratic checks and balances, closed down programs that facilitate public scrutiny, shut down media access to important information, and is now running the most secretive government in Canadian history.

        Politicians lie. They say things to get elected and then do the exact opposite. It's what they do.

      • by Surt (22457) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:38PM (#32749178) Homepage Journal

        Which leaves me facing the next election to choose between the candidate who says he'll do things I care about, but won't, and the candidate who says he'll do things I hate, and will.

        Sigh.

        • by selven (1556643)

          Then vote third party. Pick your ideology:

          Pirate Party [pirate-party.us]
          Libertarian Party [lp.org]
          Green Party [gp.org]

          Don't think of it as a wasted vote, think of it as a vote against the current system.

        • So vote for a third party! I'm so sick of everybody saying "The republicans and democrats both are terrible!" and then going out and voting for one of them!

          And no I'm not just doing this to hype the Pirate Party, because, honestly, I don't think we'll have a candidate in time for the next election. Even if the PP totally goes down the tubes I still think the best thing we as citizens can try to do to save our country's future is break out of the two party duopoly.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by amRadioHed (463061)

            Push for major election reforms then we'll talk. In the system we're stuck with voting 3rd party is not in your best interest. While you make your statement and maybe feel good about your vote, of the two candidates who actually stand a chance the one you dislike the most gets one more vote closer to winning.

            Of course this only applies to the few voters in swing states. Everyone else can vote for whatever, it doesn't make a difference either way.

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          I know what you mean. I went into the last election expecting just that, and unfortunately I was not surprised. I have been unable to vote in either of the last two major elections, the first because they said after the fact that my registration information was invalid, the second because I couldn't make it to the right county before the polls closed. It wouldn't have mattered anyway, at the time I lived in a red state. It wouldn't have mattered who I voted for.

          Now I am registered in the county I both live

      • by NevarMore (248971)

        I think the point is that Obama pledged to stop this from happening and it hasn't.

        If he was so dead set against it, why didn't he introduce a bill to outlaw it when he was a Senator? At least an Executive Order.

        This is why we're so jaded about politics in America, we elect candidates who make campaign promises. Many of those promises are implementable with formal actions that will make them stick beyond their term in office, and they don't get it done.

    • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:46PM (#32748480) Journal

      I thought this was how every politician operated? Palin, The previous white house, etc, all used non-government assigned email addresses to avoid archiving and disclosure laws.

      --jeffk++

      Wasn't Palin's email full of personal stuff and not full of emails from lobbyists and the like offering bribes?

      There's nothing forbidding politicians and their staffers from having personal email accounts. However, it is illegal to use them for official, government business as is being alleged here.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by calderra (1034658)
        But Palin and Co. were using their emails for business purposes (even if it was more day-to-day stuff, so far as the snoop caught).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          But Palin and Co. were using their emails for business purposes (even if it was more day-to-day stuff, so far as the snoop caught).

          I'm not saying your wrong here, but I just checked the images of the emails from way back when and the only thing I could see that even comes close to government business was a letter entitled something along the lines of "Draft Letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger / Container Tax", which may or may not have dealt with the business of running Alaska. It could have contained something along the lines of "Dear Arnold, as a citizen of Alaska, I find your container tax to be pure BS!" Who knows. Either way, that's

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          Alaska was and is a bit more liberal with email rules in the Government.

          I work for the Alaska government in a quasi-state agency and we've never even been issued an acceptable use policy document for the Internet.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Soliciting bribes is personal business, not official government business!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Wasn't Palin's email full of personal stuff and not full of emails from lobbyists and the like offering bribes?

        It's illegal in all 50 states to conduct state business on a Yahoo account: [adn.com]

        In response to similar but separate public records requests, McLeod and Henning this summer received four banker boxes of e-mail and telephone records for two Palin aides: Frank Bailey and Ivy Frye. Henning was operating on behalf of the Valley group Last Frontier Foundation, which lists property rights and public records as among its core issues on its Web site.

        "I think that it's total hypocrisy from what she stood for at the beginning of her campaign," Henning said. "Because she campaigned on open government, and she knew that using a private e-mail account would take it and basically hide stuff that people couldn't see."

        As far as McLeod can tell, all but one of the e-mails to the governor used her private e-mail address. The one time an aide e-mailed the governor's state account, he was reminded not to.

        "Frank, This is not the Governor's personal e-mail account," an assistant to Palin wrote to Bailey in February.

        "Whoops~!" Bailey responded in an e-mail.

        The state public records law says these are public documents like any other official government business conducted via snail mail. They are subject to public review via FOI requests, but they're not being kept in any kind of public archive. Asking Palin to surrender and not delete all her relevant Yahoo correspondence on the honor system is pointless.

        Todd Palin [adn.com] had an account used for some interesting state business as well.

        • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:03PM (#32749476) Journal

          Can you show me the email that was state business being sent from Sarah Palin's personal account? Everything I've seen is stuff that didn't belong on the official government email. The email titled "LOOK AT TRIGG!" does not belong on government servers.

          Also, Todd did not work for the State of Alaska, regardless of what is in his email. Had he gotten an official Alaska.gov email address, then you'd have something. Otherwise, Michelle Obama's statement that the government can tell us what to eat could be considered an executive order.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Can you show me the email that was state business being sent from Sarah Palin's personal account?

            You can either file your own FOI request or contact the nonprofit and look through the four boxes of emails they got in theirs. I don't feel like Googling one for you.

            Also, Todd did not work for the State of Alaska, regardless of what is in his email

            Uhhhhhh..... THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT. We have no idea who opened Todd's account, but regardless of who was reading it, state business was always BCC-ed to i
    • by PatHMV (701344) <post@patrickmartin.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:46PM (#32748484) Homepage
      Well, the other way to look at it is that they used private e-mail to avoid violating the law prohibiting use of public e-mail accounts for conducting political business. Most folks who work for the White House have, for example, 2 cell phones. One is paid for by the taxpayer and is used when conducting official government business. The other is paid for by the party or by a campaign committee and is used when conducting political business which the government employee, by law, must do in their "private" time and using private, not government, resources.

      Since the law expressly allows federal employees at that level to remain involved with the political process, so long as they don't use public resources to do so, I don't see how they can function without having a separate e-mail account just as they have a separate cell phone. The only legal issue is whether they are using that separate e-mail account properly for political business, or whether they are improperly using it to conduct official government business, which would be a violation of the law for circumventing the archiving and disclosure laws.

      And yes, I took the same position with the last President as I do with this one, even though I really don't care for the current President.
      • by Cytotoxic (245301)

        This is a pretty astute observation. It also points out the unrealistic ideals of the law - that you could possibly entirely disentangle the political from the high level government work. These people speak with lobbyists about specific legislative or regulatory actions as a part of their government job. They speak to the same lobbyist about political organizing activity as a part of their (entirely separate) political job. Maintaining the fiction of separate phone and email accounts for the (completely

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BobMcD (601576)

        The only legal issue is whether they are using that separate e-mail account properly for political business, or whether they are improperly using it to conduct official government business, which would be a violation of the law for circumventing the archiving and disclosure laws.

        You just used more words than the summary to sum up the summary. Why?

    • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:47PM (#32748488)

      Good for CREW. Most of these partisan advocacy groups play team red / team blue and have to check the roster to decide where they stand on an issue. It is great to see one of them finally standing on principal and holding their own team to the same standard. It would be nice if every "issue advocacy" group would stick to its guns without regard to party affiliation.

    • by Benfea (1365845) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:47PM (#32748490)
      Even if it is true that all politicians do this, that does not make this right. Archiving and disclosure laws are there for a reason.
    • I thought this was how every politician operated? Palin, The previous white house, etc, all used non-government assigned email addresses to avoid archiving and disclosure laws.

      Running a light because the guy in front of you did it too, doesn't make it legal.

      Also, for the President and his staff (and the ex-president and his staff), the issue is more that they violated this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_Records_Act [wikipedia.org]

      • When Obama was in Congress, he pressed Bush for all the missing emails. When he took over the White House and the media asked if he was now going to hunt down and release all those emails he promised, he said to drop the issue.

    • by andy1307 (656570) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:59PM (#32748674)
      So we've gone from "Hope and Change" to "STFU, everybody does it"?
    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      I thought this was how every politician operated? Palin, The previous white house, etc, all used non-government assigned email addresses to avoid archiving and disclosure laws.

      --jeffk++

      The solution is simple. Vote for the one that doesn't use email [telegraph.co.uk]!

      I am only kind of joking... heh...

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      well in the UK a lot of off the record stuff goes on in certain pubs near Westminster the red lion was known for it
  • Things like this don't even surprise me anymore, because I've come to expect them from our government.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:42PM (#32748440)

    The allegations, first reported last week by the New York Times, would likely constitute a violation of federal law as well as an ethics pledge created by Obama upon taking office last year.

    ....aaaaaand the Obama administration has ZERO excuse for this, given that the Bush Administration and WH staffers were caught doing exactly the same thing [wikipedia.org] (well, not exactly- in the Bush case, they were discussing firing US DA's for political advantage, and discussing CIA leaks...the list of illegal activity goes on and on.)

    Aside from ignorance not being defense, Obama-ites were obviously not ignorant about it after the last administration were caught doing it!

    Oh, and if you think this only happens in the White House, guess again. Mayor Thomas Menino in Boston had a lackey named Michael J. Kineavy who had his fingers in everything and was deleting emails before the City Hall backup server would get to them. And the City didn't have an email archiving system. And the city tried to claim that it'd cost a bazillion dollars to try and recover from the tapes they did have! More: http://www.google.com/search?q=menino+email [google.com]

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      THIS!

      And, to add, Obama ran into this PRECISE issue when he wanted to use his personal Blackberry after he was elected.

      He damn well knows better, and we can prove it.

      I think the penalties should be double for willful disobedience, especially from the POTUS.

      • And, to add, Obama ran into this PRECISE issue when he wanted to use his personal Blackberry after he was elected.

        To be fair, I *think* one of the issues was that the device wasn't secure enough. I believe he got a secure PDA for guvmin't stuff, and still uses his personal blackberry for personal stuff?

        It's not illegal for him to use personal email to tell his daughters to do their homework. And it's not illegal for him to email the Attorney General some smack talk about a soccer team in the world cu

    • There is absolutely no meat in TFA, just vague speculations about White House personell maybe using their personal email accounts to communicate with lobbyists. There need to be specific allegations about person X doing Y otherwise the article is just a baseless smokescreen. But yeah, *if* personal email accounts has been improperly used, then that is just astonishingly shameful for Obama.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Monchanger (637670)

      The allegations , first reported last week by the New York Times,

      Fixed that for you.

      If one actually bothers to read the original NYT article, one would know it still only talking about allegations. And a limited number of incidents reported by unnamed lobbyists at that. Because there are allegations, CREW called for an official investigation to determine if there is truth to the allegations.

      The bigger issue discussed was that coffee-shops being used as meeting places, which again is neither illegal nor necessarily a sign of corruption. It's not a strange and terrible

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:42PM (#32748442)

    With all these lobbyists in Washington, I have always wondered who takes care of the ordinary citizen's interests in that city.

    I guess the better question would be:

    Who is lobbying on behalf of Joe Six Pack and family in Washington? Is there any?

    • by jav1231 (539129)
      We need a Joe Dirt Lobby. :p
    • Sarah, is that you?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by archer, the (887288)

      I always thought that was the job of the Senators and Representatives. I suspect they sometimes forget this, though.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:07PM (#32748778)

      Well what is the ordinary citizen?

      What is their education, what do they do for a living, what services do they need, what don't they need...

      You say who is fighting for the ordinary citizen's like it is a simple statement. If you are too tough on corporations they cannot operate and move out and kill the economy, if you are too lax they will take over. Every choice has a tradeoff. Lobbyists work for a big slue of sectors including many non-corprate groups, and other groups that you may call the Good Guys...

      Hey if I worked for a Oil company I just may like the Oil Lobby as it is defending work for me as the average joe... But if you don't then they may be the enemy.

      Unfortunately without lobbyists I see politicians swerving to whatever the general population thinks at the time, and then money and resources are put in and by the time it gets going it is dropped as their values change overnight...

    • Yes, there are quite a few lobbyists who represent organizations that are made up of Joe Six Packs and/or their families. Who do you think is in the Sierra Club? Or the NRA? or MADD? These are all organizations that at least started out representing a coalition of common ordinary citizens (you can argue about whether they still do or not, but even if you question whether these organizations still represent the ordinary citizen, there are other organizations that do).
      That is why doing "campaign finance refo
    • by limaxray (1292094) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:38PM (#32749180) Homepage
      There are a lot actually, starting with the ACLU and the NRA. The People do lobby congress to great success - they just do it as groups in order to pool resources.

      The problem of course is not the lobbying (it is a constitutionally protected right after all), it's the politicians who care more about getting a steak dinner, a Rolex, and a blow job than doing what's best for their constituents and their country.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by woozlewuzzle (532172)

      Well, if Joe is over 55 he has AARP to lobby for (certain aspects of) him. If he carries a gun, he has the NRA. Heck, if he drives a car he may have AAA. So many organizations we do business with and are fundamental to our lives have someone speaking up as lobbyists. Joe Six Pack isn't unrepresented. Maybe he would like his own personal voice, as would every citizen. Can you imagine 300,000,000 lobbyists in DC? They get their individual voice every 2+ years when they vote in various representatives.

  • by GlennC (96879) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @02:58PM (#32748656)

    ...the Sun was seen rising in the East.

    ...bears use the woods as their own personal toilet.

    ...Pope declares "I am a Catholic."

  • I give up (Score:5, Informative)

    by ericdano (113424) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:04PM (#32748744) Homepage

    This administration has been terrible. All this promise, and then failure. And now there is news that the voter intimidation case got dropped for political reasons? I mean, there the guy is, holding a baton.....seriously, WTF.

    Using Gmail should not be allowed. Government officials need to have ALL their activities OPENED to us, the people, unless it is personal stuff. This stuff is NOT personal, it is skirting the law. I don't care if PREVIOUS administrations did it or not. I don't care. Obama promised to do things DIFFERENTLY and I see nothing but business as usual if not more of an orgy type atmosphere there since they have a hold on both houses as well right now.

    • Bribes and backroom deals are personal stuff.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      You might want to pojnt the finger at the right people.

      The Republicans have move to stop ANYTHING coming from the whitehouse.

      over 200 Appoints held up. Sure, a few in key policialt places get a close look, thats norrmal, Over 200? Bullshit.

      When the president has agreed on bills sponsored by republicans, the republicans stop backing it

      When there isn't something they like they filibuster.

      Even when they are dealing with confirming a person they like, they twist all the questions into a political knife that is

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Late Adopter (1492849)

      This administration has been terrible. All this promise, and then failure.

      That may be a small amount of hyperbole. The Obameter [politifact.com] rates Obama still as having fulfilled more of his campaign promise than those he's broken or stalled on. Which isn't to say that "coming through on half the things you promise" is good enough (nor are all promises created equal), but I wouldn't call it failure.

      • Re:I give up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by regular_gonzalez (926606) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:26PM (#32752232)
        All promises aren't equal. If I promise to drink at least 3 glasses of water a day, to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, and also promise to not embezzle from my employer, keeping the first two but not the third may give me a respectable "promise keeping" percentage, but I would guess my employer would be much happier if I kept only the third and not the first two.
  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:10PM (#32748842)

    To me this is just another example of how much people will try to cling to old ways of doing things and subvert rules that prevent it.

    According to the NYTimes article referenced in TFA that kicked off this whole discussion, indicates that the administration has a policy of posting all White House visits and pressures staff to minimize contact with lobbyists. In response, rather than obey the spirit of those directives, the staff instead meets with lobbyists off the record.

    This is a story older than government, going back to whenever a parent first told their kids not to do something or earlier: someone makes a rule, people impacted by that rule try to find a loophole, the rule is revised, repeat. Government is an inherently iterative process.

    That being said, if doing an investigation speeds up this iteration of the feedback loop, I'm all for it.

  • Wow, Obama yet again doing the same thing as the guy who came before him. The only difference is that for some reason people might care about it this time.
  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:06PM (#32749520)
    Wow, I guess politics truely does make strange bed fellows.
  • by jafac (1449) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:19AM (#32753204) Homepage

    If they did this, they should go to jail.
    Bush did it too. Also should have gone to jail.
    (also: White House email backup system has been non-functional since the Clinton era. Bullshit they can't afford to get that working. So fucking illegal. Their communications in doing business on MY behalf, while I'm paying them - is MY lawful property. Do the job right, or go the fuck home.)

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