More on RNC emails, Presidential Records Act, “Intelligent Design” Symposium

April 9, 2007

Today the Los Angeles Times reports on the continued controversy over the use of private computers and email accounts by White House staffers. 

The back-channel e-mail and paging system, paid for and maintained by the RNC, was designed to avoid charges that had vexed the Clinton White House – that federal resources were being used inappropriately for political campaign purposes.

 This has become relevant to the Bush Library discussion because of allegations that the Bush administration has deliberately used these accounts to avoid having these communications documented for later generations, as mandated by the Presidential Records Act.  The story continues:

Democrats say evidence suggests the RNC e-mail system was used for political and government policy matters in violation of federal record preservation and disclosure rules.

In addition, Democrats point to a handful of e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggesting the system may have been used to conceal such activities as contacts with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted on bribery charges and is now in prison for fraud.

Democratic congressional investigators are beginning to demand access to this RNC-White House communications system, which was used not only by Rove’s office but by several top officials elsewhere in the White House . . .

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, last week formally requested access to broad categories of RNC-White House e-mails.

Waxman told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that a separate “e-mail system for high-ranking White House officials would raise serious questions about violations of the Presidential Records Act,” which requires the preservation and ultimate disclosure of e-mails about official government business.

Meanwhile, much closer to home, there is another round of letters in the Dallas Morning News about the “Intelligent Design” symposium that will be held at SMU.   This event has provoked great resistance from science faculty at SMU, and the Dean of Dedman College has attributed some of this concern to the larger anxiety over what the Bush Institute might do to the public profile of SMU.  This Monday also saw SMU host the inaugural event of the “Stop Global Warming Tour,” featuring Sheryl Crow and others speaking out against global warming.  Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting will be devoted to a consideration of a wide range of resolutions about the Bush complex, including the use of SMU’s name by the Bush Institute, the siting of the complex, and perhaps one praising the faculty discussion (including the petition for a referendum on the Institute, and this blog).

Finally, the Chicago Tribune article yesterday again quoted SMU officials as saying that the final announcement should be a matter of weeks, not months.  They’ve been saying this for at least six weeks — so I’m assuming that we’ll hear something soon, or that there has been some snag in the negotiations and Bush people are now talking with Baylor or pursuing other options.