APRIL 09, 2007
A Congressional oversight committee is investigating a secret electronic mail system for high-ranking White House officials that could violate a federal act requiring preservation and subsequent public disclosure of all official government business.
The communication system is operated by the Republican National Committee and, ironically, White House officials insist that it is appropriate because it was modeled after a system created and used by Bill Clinton and his staff in the late 1990s.
Evidently the network has been utilized by Republican lawmakers and White House officials to communicate about political and government policy matters, which would violate federal record preservation and disclosure rules. In fact, a handful of electronic mails already exposed reveal the system was used to conceal contacts with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who is in prison for fraud.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the main investigative body in the U.S. House of Representatives, discovered the potentially illegal communication when it launched its investigation a few weeks ago.
The committee’s chairman, a Democratic representative from Southern California, concluded that in some instances White House officials used the non government account specifically to avoid leaving a record of communications. That would violate the Presidential Records Act, a 1978 law that governs official records of presidents and vice presidents and makes the American public their legal owner.
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