A Conservative Think Tank Wants The White House Science Czar’s Private Emails

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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A D.C.-based, free market think tank filed an appeal in court Monday in an attempt to obtain records from the personal email account of a top White House official.

For the past few years, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has exposed the use of non-public email accounts by top Obama administration officials, including the former EPA chief and Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture. Now, the think tank wants emails from White House science czar John Holdren’s personal account — an account he may have used to conduct government business.

“There are a growing number of scandals concerning the use of private email accounts by top Obama administration officials,” Sam Kazman, CEI’s general counsel, said in a statement. “ While President Obama claims his administration is the most transparent in history, his officers seem to confuse being transparent with being invisible.”

This is the think tank’s second attempt at getting Holdren’s emails. In March, a federal judge sided against CEI, ruling Holdren’s private email account was outside the purview of the Freedom of Information Act. The Staff at CEI disagrees, and says Holdren was using a private email account associated with the Woods Hole Research Institute.

CEI argues that FOIA applies to the work-related records of agency employees regardless of where they are stored.  Many agencies routinely instruct their staff to preserve any such documents that they might have on their personal email accounts.  In CEI’s case, however, John Holdren, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) either missed the memo or refused to issue it.

“The court ruling that we are appealing will only add to those scandals, because it legitimizes private email accounts as way to evade FOIA,” Kazman said.

This is the second FOIA-related lawsuit CEI is involved in against the White House. The think tank is also seeking documents related to a video the White House put out to explain the “polar vortex” in 2014. In the video, Holdren claimed that man-made global warming was driving fierce winter weather, despite a growing number of studies refuting his assertions.

CEI asked the White House to correct the video and sought information Holdren relied upon to make his claims. The White House, however, claimed Holdren’s sources were exempt from FOIA because it was his “personal opinion” and not an authoritative statement on science.

The only problem is that in the video Holdren claims “growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”

He’s clearly citing a certain body of scientific research, according to CEI, and the think wants to see which studies he relied on. The White house so far, has not produced the information Holdren relied on to link global warming to frigid winters.

The White House did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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