WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday accused a prominent Washington law firm of trying to interfere with their investigation into use of personal email accounts by government officials.
Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said they were outraged by an email sent by an employee at Dickstein Shapiro, a firm that represents Jonathan Silver, former head of the Energy Department’s loan program office.
Issa, who chairs the House oversight panel, released the email during a hearing Tuesday on transparency in government.
“If possible. do not direct questions to Jonathan Silver. He’s a client of my firm’s,” the email reads. The one-line missive included the ellipses and ended with a smiley face emoticon symbol. The identity of the sender was blacked out.
Issa said that he believed the email was “an interference with Congress” and that he and Cummings were considering whether to refer the issue to the American Bar Association.
Cummings, the panel’s top Democrat, called the email “very unfortunate” and said it appeared to be “clearly out of bounds.”
Silver, who led the loan office when the solar firm Solyndra collapsed in 2011 after receiving a $528 million Energy Department loan, said he knew nothing about the email.
A spokeswoman for the the law firm said Dickstein Shapiro represents Silver in the committee’s inquiry.
“We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the email,” the spokeswoman, Michelle Rodgers, said Tuesday. “Mr. Silver retained the firm for legal services. He had no knowledge of the communication.”
The hearing was called to examine the Obama administration’s use of alternate email accounts to conduct official business.
Several former Obama administration officials, including Silver and former Environment Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, told the panel that they did not intend to violate federal record-keeping rules when they used personal email addresses to contact those with whom they’ve done official business.
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