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March 26, 2007
gwb43.com: Parallel White House email system?
Kathy Gill, author of the U.S. Politics: Current Events blog at NYT-owned About.com, takes on a story that may be too geeky for for both print media and the soundbite culture: GWB43.com, AttorneyGate and Federal Records Requirements. Here's how it starts:
Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) asked Congress to investigate White House staff use of "gwb43.com" e-mail addresses while conducting official government business. (tip) The domain name is owned by the Republican National Committee (see a screenshot of whois registry info) and was probably created as a means for staffers to have e-mail conversations about the 2004 election while at work (bypassing the prohibited White House mail servers).
What's fascinating is that staff continued to use this address long after the election -- and for government business. For example, J. Scott Jennings, White House Deputy Political Director, used his account at gwb43.com to communicate with Justice Department Chief of Staff D. Kyle Sampson about the firing of eight US attorneys.
CREW -- and others, including me -- wonder if this was a deliberate attempt to evade the Presidential Records Act (PRA). Interestingly, according to the National Journal (reported in the WaPo), Karl Rove "does 'about 95 percent' of his e-mailing using his RNC-based account."
It's hard to imagine someone arguing, with a straight face, that communications on a political mail server can be construed as "privileged." But expect it to happen.
The use of outside e-mail accounts is not confined to AttorneyGate. CREW notes that Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove’s former assistant Susan Ralston used three private e-mail accounts -- rnchq.com (headquarters of the Republican National Committee), georgebush.com (re-election campaign) and aol.com -- to communicate with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Many of the mails, according to CREW, provide "inside White House information to Mr. Abramoff in response to Mr. Abramoff’s efforts to broker deals for his clients and place specified individuals in positions within the administration."
Here's a shot of one of those emails, at Washington Monthly, which ends with
"Dammit, it was sent to Susan on her rnc pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system."
(Susan B. Ralston...Special Assistant to the President & Assistant to the Senior Advisor Karl Rove, resigned October 6, 2006, "after disclosures that she accepted gifts from and passed information to now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff... -- Sourcewatch)
Hugely popular and partisan Democratic blog Daily Kos is all over this gwb43.com story.
AP mentioned gwb43.com briefly in this March 13 story: Gonzales Rejects Calls for Resignation
And in one on March 24, cited, with comments, from Republican site FreeRepublic.com.
Related: Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, credited with bringing this story to national attention, answering those "who seem to be asking, genuinely, what the big deal is":
...there appears to have been a whole process in place to root out prosecutors who wouldn't prostitute their offices for partisan goals.
We all understand that politics and the law aren't two hermetically sealed domains. And we understand that partisanship may come into play at the margins. But we expect it to be the exception to the rule and a rare one. But here it appears to have become the rule rather than the exception, a systematic effort at the highest levels to hijack the Justice Department and use it to advance the interest of one party over the other by use of selective prosecution.
Indeed, what sort of permanent advantage would go to the party in the White House if they were to install only federal prosecutors who would agree to prosecute potential candidates of the opposing party?
Posted by Sheila Lennon at 12:22 PM | Permalink
Clearly this is how they have done business for some time. Here's a random call for nominees to Federal jobs from Scott Jennings a couple of years ago. This is White House Business, and he uses his WH title, but note the email address:
"Friday, May 13, 2005
Presidential Boards and Commissions Looking for Nominations from Kentuckians
*Scott Jennings, a hard working fellow Kentucky Republican, that is now working in the White House is circulating this list of Presidential Boards and Commissions openings looking for suggestions of any possible nominees from Kentucky.
We are looking for some qualified people to serve on a few Bush Administration Boards and Commissions. Take a look at the list, and if you have anyone please forward a resume—
*National Council on Disabilities – 4 Vacancies
*President’s Council on Physical Fitness – 12 vacancies
*Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – 1 vacancy; someone who is a superstar in the area of historic preservation
J. Scott Jennings
White House Office of Political Affairs
posted by Kentucky Republican Voice at 9:13 AM 0 comments"
Posted by: wineguy on March 28, 2007 7:48 PM