When is an e-mail from the White House not from the White House?

In the age of email, Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman is keeping it old-school with his ongoing letter-writing campaign…actual letters, typed on paper that are in part aimed at getting to the bottom of White House email policies. Waxman, sent one letter today to Counsel to the President Fred Fielding and the second to Karl Rove.

The letters focus on two different issues… White House staffers using personal email addresses at work and White House staff making Republican Party strategy presentations on government time. Two seemingly separate issues, but it is clear that Waxman is digging into what appears to be a trend at the White House: inappropriate political activity and the use of government resources and staff to extend political influence.

Letter number one asks: if an email from the White House is sent by a White House employee from an AOL account (or gmail or Yahoo!), does it still come from the White House? Waxman's investigators and several eagle-eyed Abramoff watchers have noticed that among emails that were released in the US Attorneys brouhaha and back during Abramoff days , were emails from White House staffers, conducting official business using private email accounts instead of White House email addresses. It lets them bypass the archiving that happens under Presidential records rules.

Waxman sites some interesting examples. Like this one from Karl Rove's former executive assistant Susan Ralston to two lobbyists working for Rove on July 11, 2001: "I now have an RNC (Republican National Committee) blackberry which you can use to e-mail me any time. No security issues like my WH email". And this note, that Waxman sites, Ralston wrote to Abramoff himself: "…I can access my AOL email when necessary so if you need to send me something that I need to read, you can send to my AOL email and then call and page me to check."

The letter to Rove stems from Wednesday's Committee hearing on political misconduct at the General Services Administration (GSA), where it was learned that Rove deputy J. Scott Jennings made a presentation this January to 40 political appointees at the agency headquarters. The topic of the meeting that day at the GSA?...the top Republican Party electoral targets for the next elections and a discussion on how the GSA staff could help "our candidates" in the next election, according to Waxman's letter.

"Please explain the legal authority you believe allows you to make such presentations on federal property during business hours?" Waxman asks Rove. And where and when have White House staffers given this presentation in the past?

Waxman asks Rove to get back to him with answers by April 13. Fielding is asked to respond by April 5. Presumably they can respond by paper and snail mail or their dotgov email addresses.

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