The controversy over Hillary Clinton's email usage while she was secretary of state has been largely driven by the media, and for good reason. The New York Times broke the news that she used a private email address and homebrew server for official business, and the rest of the media—with mixed motives—ensured that it became a controversy. Some outlets are concerned that Clinton used her personal account to skirt open-records laws; the Associated Press sued the State Department on Wednesday "after repeated requests filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act have gone unfulfilled." Others are fascinated about the political ramifications: What does this do to Clinton's 2016 chances?
But the story is beginning to have ramifications beyond media law and Clintonland, as conservatives and liberals alike connect it to a handful of agencies they’ve had longstanding gripes against, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.
On Wednesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the EPA, alleging the agency is stonewalling a Freedom of Information Act request for former EPA chief Lisa Jackson's emails. For years, conservatives have charged that Jackson used a secondary email account under the alias "Richard Windsor" to hide green lobbyists' influence in crafting coal regulations. Jackson has insisted that the second account was used only for personal matters, and an inspector general report found "no evidence" that the email address was to conceal information from the public. But CEI believes the EPA is still hiding something by refusing to disclose more than 100 documents per month (out of the 120,000 records CEI requested).
Clinton’s emails, according to CEI, show that their concern over the EPA is justified. “Hillary Clinton and EPA’s Richard Windsor both seem to be on the administration’s transparency dodgeball team, dodging the public’s requests to know what they’re up to,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner. “After EPA stonewalled even a federal mediation process, we now turn to the court for relief from an agency behaving as if it is above the law.”
Tea Party group True the Vote, meanwhile, sees a connection between Clinton’s emails and allegations that the IRS blocked conservative political groups from tax-exempt status. It is “just a continuation of a thriving culture of concealment within the Obama administration,” the group’s founder Catherine Engelbrecht said, according to the Washington Times.
Conservatives aren't the only ones capitalizing on Clinton’s emails: Environmentalists think Clinton's emails might prove she took on a greater role than thought in influencing the State Department's pending decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. “We hope the release of these documents clarifies Secretary Clinton’s role in the Keystone XL National Interest Determination,” Friends of the Earth's climate and energy director, Ben Schreiber, said in a statement. “While we appreciate the release on 55,000 pages of emails, we remain concerned that a substantial number of emails will not be independently reviewed leaving doubt about her personal involvement in the Keystone XL process.”
Whether or not any of these charges are true, Clinton's email controversy is about to cause as many headaches for federal agencies as it's caused for her presumptive presidential campaign.