Issa Presses Web Chief On Personal E-Mail Use To Contact Former Co-Workers

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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is pressing White House Deputy
Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin to explain his relationship
with his former employer, Google.

The congressman, who serves as
ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, said McLaughlin’s
account on Google’s new Buzz social network suggests he remains in touch
with "more than two dozen individuals currently employed by Google,
Inc., including a number of senior lobbyists and lawyers.” 

Consequently, Issa pressed McLaughlin in a letter sent Thursday to
assure those communications have been archived according to federal law.
He stressed his inquiry was necessary, given that McLaughlin’s
suspected use of a personal e-mail account to conduct official White
House business "raises the specter that [he was] attempting to
circumvent the laws associated with openness and transparency."

American people have a right to expect that White House employees are
working to advance the public interest and not the interests of the
lobby shops who formerly employed them," Issa noted in the letter. "The
use of a Gmail account to communicate with lobbyists and evade
transparency laws is at odds with President Obama’s promises to limit
the influence of lobbyists." 

The congressman’s letter on
Thursday arrives about a week after Consumer Watchdog submitted a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain copies of
McLaughlin’s recent e-mails with Google staffers. Their concern stemmed
from a screenshot of McLaughlin’s Google Buzz account that showed a
number of the search giant’s top employees subscribed to the deputy Web
chief’s updates.

It is not immediately clear whether
McLaughlin actually communicates with those lobbyists and executives,
given that Buzz automatically adds one’s contacts to his or her
subscriber list, a feature that has earned the social network scorn from
private groups and members of Congress.

Still, the screenshot
prompted Consumer Watchdog, at least, to
question whether McLaughlin’s job
is itself a conflict of interest;
a concern it previously expressed shortly after his appointment. And
news that McLaughlin had used Gmail, not his White House e-mail account,
to make those contacts prompted Issa to question whether those messages
had been appropriately archived, as required by the Presidential
Records Act.

He consequently asked McLaughlin to answer six
questions related to those messages no later than April 22.

White House needs to address how it plans to ensure that
communications with lobbyists and senior officials through private
e-mail accounts are archived in full compliance with the law,” Issa

Consumer Watchdog
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