Those who pay attention to the Obama administration know that the practice of hiding information, and of improper treatment of electronic records, is hardly confined to the Internal Revenue Service. The Environmental Protection Agency has been particularly abusive, with former agency head Lisa Jackson inventing and using the fake name “Richard Windsor” for an EPA e-mail account on which she apparently discussed official business. (John Fund reported on this at NRO early in 2013, and Eliana Johnson followed up here.) Last week, in a long-running battle, the Landmark Legal Foundation — whose president is radio host and former Justice Department chief of staff Mark Levin — filed suit asking federal district judge Royce Lamberth to impose sanctions on the EPA for failing to preserve, or even intentionally destroying, e-mails it was required to produce to Landmark as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Landmark suspects that the e-mails will show that the EPA improperly manipulated its regulatory agenda in order to influence the 2012 election.
With prototypically memorable language, Levin said that “the EPA is a toxic waste dump for lawlessness and disdain for the Constitution.”
The motion filed last week specifically alleges that “Defendant Environmental Protection Agency (‘EPA,’ ‘Defendant,’ or ‘Agency’) has spoliated documents and repeatedly delayed in seeking to recover them even after pledging to do so before this Court.”
“The spoliation has continued during this lawsuit even after the failure to preserve documents was brought to light by Landmark’s depositions of EPA officials. EPA has failed to recover text messages and refused to cooperate with Landmark to investigate the loss of text messages by other senior officials or to recover personal emails from other senior officials,” it reads.
This isn’t a mere bureaucratic dispute. Levin and his team say they believe Administrator Jackson and her cohorts deliberately, and possibly unlawfully, delayed the release dates for controversial, indeed unpopular, regulations until after the 2012 election in order to avoid harming President Obama’s reelection chances. As one news outlet described it at the time (as cited in Landmark’s legal brief), knowledgeable observers saw “a crass political calculation at play: Don’t give Romney any more ammunition before the election – and then open the floodgates after the polls close.”
That, of course, was also the presumed motive behind the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups for harassment and delays in approving their tax-exempt status: to sideline those groups so their efforts to motivate conservative voters, presumably against Obama’s reelection, would be hobbled.
This misuse of the bureaucracy for political purposes (if it occurred, which it almost certainly did) is positively Nixonian. So is the destruction of electronic records. Bravo for Landmark for holding the administration’s feet to the fire.