House Republicans Darrell Issa and James Sensenbrenner are calling for an investigation of whether Obama climate czar Carol Browner’s secrecy in developing Obama’s CAFE standards and EPA’s CO2 endangerment finding was a “deliberate and willful violation” of the Presidential Records Act.
According to the letter,
… Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), revealed to the New York Times that the White House held a series of secret meetings with select special interests as they were crafting the new CAFE standards. Nichols was a key player in these negotiations because of California’s determined efforts to regulate fuel economy standards at the state level. Nichols admitted there was a deliberate “vow of silence”
surrounding the negotiations between the White House and California on vehicle fuel economy [standards]. According to Nichols’ interview, “[Carol] Browner [Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change] quietly orchestrated private discussions from the White House with auto industry officials.” Great care was taken to “put nothing in writing, ever.” This coordinated effort, led by Carol Browner, to leave no paper trail of the deliberations within the White House appears to be a deliberate and willful violation of the Presidential Records Act. This Act requires the President to take, “all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are maintained as Presidential records.” Clearly, Browner’s actions were intended to leave little to no documentation of the deliberations that lead to the development of stringent new CAFE standards.
So much for President Obama’s Jan. 21 committment to unprecedented openness in government.
This case is not like Dick Cheney’s 2005 win-for-White-House-secrecy stemming from the 2001 lawsuit by green groups over Cheney’s refusal to release documents from the National Energy Policy Development Group under the Freedom of Information Act. In that case, a federal appeals court ruled that the NEPDG was not an agency subject to FOIA. But no one accused the NEPDG of conspiring to evade whatever record retention law might have been applicable.
Yes, this is the same Carol Browner who JunkScience.com exposed earlier this year as an official with Socialist International.
An appropriate historical footnote to this situation comes from a 1960 letter to Playboy from Ronald Reagan about his awakening to communism, as retold by James Mann in The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan (Viking Press, 2009):
What bothereed Reagan above all, he wrote, was the discovery that Communist Party members operated in secret and did not tell the truth. “I, like you, will defend the right of any American to openly practice and preach any political philosophy from monarchy to anarchy,” he told Hefner. “But this is not the case with regard to the communist. He is bound by party discipline to deny he is a communist so that he can by subversion and stealth impose on an unwilling people the rule of the International Communist Party which is in fact the government of Soviet Russia. Anti-communism for Reagan, then was not primarily foreign policy or geopolitics; it was personal and moralistic in nature, driven by his experiences with people he considered sophisticated and devious…
“General Secretary” is probably more apt than “czar” for Browner.