Yet another Clintonite has been wheeled out of the political morgue to serve in the Obama administration. Carol Browner, a neon-green radical who headed the Environmental Protection Agency from 1993-2000, is widely rumored to be the president-elect's choice for "energy czar." But an ethical cloud still hangs over Browner's EPA legacy. It doesn't take a team of Ivy League lawyers to figure out that this is one more headache the Hope and Change crew doesn't need.
In the spirit of reaching across the aisle, let me dust off the cobwebs and help out all the smarty-pants vetters on the Obama team with a little background on Browner's stained past:
On her last day in office, nearly eight years ago, Browner oversaw the destruction of agency computer files in brazen violation of a federal judge's order requiring the agency to preserve its records. This from a public official who bragged about her tenure: "One of the things I'm the proudest of at EPA is the work we've done to expand the public's right to know."
Asked to explain her track-covering actions, the savvy career lawyer played dumb. Figuratively batting her eyelashes, Browner claimed she had no clue about a court injunction signed by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on the same day she commanded an underling to wipe her hard drives clean. Golly gee willikers, how could that have slipped by?
According to testimony in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed against EPA by Landmark Legal Foundation, a Virginia-based conservative legal watchdog group, Browner commanded a computer technician on Jan. 19, 2001: "I would like my files deleted. I want you to delete my files."
Not coincidentally, Landmark Legal Foundation had been pressing Browner to fully and publicly disclose the names of any special interest groups that may have influenced her wave of last-minute regulatory actions. Two days before she told her technician to purge all her records, EPA had gone to court to file a motion opposing the federal court injunction protecting those government documents.
Plausible deniability? Not bloody likely.
Incredibly, Browner asserted that there was no work-related material on her work computer. She explained she was merely cleaning the hard drive of computer games she had downloaded for her son, and that she wanted to expunge the hard drive as a "courtesy" to the incoming Bush administration. How thoughtful.
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