I learned about this last night on Capitol Hill Blue, and I had to laugh and swear alternately. Why am I not the teeniest bit surprised that the White House (and Karl Rove in particular) would use computers owned by the Republican National Committee to circumvent oversight and get around the requirements of the Presidential Records Act?
Here’s an excerpt from the full article in the LA Times:
When Karl Rove and his top deputies arrived at the White House in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided them with laptop computers and other communication devices to be used alongside their government-issued equipment.
The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House — that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.
… Democrats say evidence suggests the RNC e-mail system was used for political and government policy matters in violation of federal record preservation and disclosure rules.
In addition, Democrats point to a handful of e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggesting the system may have been used to conceal such activities as contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted on bribery charges and is now in prison for fraud.
… Some Republicans believe that the huge number of e-mails — many written hastily, with no thought that they might become public — may contain more detailed and unguarded inside information about the administration’s far-flung political activities than has previously been available.
“There is concern about what may be in these e-mails,” said one GOP activist who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.
“The system was created with the best intentions,” said former Assistant White House Press Secretary Adam Levine, who was assigned an RNC laptop and BlackBerry when he worked at the White House in 2002. But, he added, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week formally requested access to broad categories of RNC-White House e-mails.
Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate “e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act,” which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.
…The private e-mail system came to light in the U.S. attorney controversy because one of Rove’s deputies used an RNC-maintained e-mail domain — gwb43.com — to communicate with the Justice Department about replacing one of those prosecutors.