Messages Expose Treasury Officials’ Attempts to Organize Support for New Tax
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 13, 2012 – On Tuesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed suit to force the Treasury Department to release more than 7,300 emails believed to discuss a new “carbon tax” Obama administration allies in Congress are expected to propose in the upcoming lame duck session.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks emails on official government accounts that CEI had requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Treasury has said nothing about this topic publicly, but the existence of such extensive email traffic likely reflects serious ongoing discussions between Treasury officials, outside pressure groups and other special interest groups.
CEI requested emails that included the word “carbon” from the agency charged with setting up cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. “It’s possible this office, whose sole purpose was to manage a cap-and-trade or carbon tax program was despairing, in thousands of emails, why people no longer use carbon paper,” said Christopher Horner, an attorney, senior fellow at CEI and author of the recent book, “The Liberal War on Transparency.” “Otherwise, it seems we have an enormous history over the past year of discussions with lobbyists, pressure groups, contributors and maybe even Republicans about how to impose this massive new energy tax.”
The administration has refused to issue the fee waivers routinely provided to non-profits and to which CEI was entitled because the agency did not respond to the request in a timely fashion. It cited the cost of photocopying 7,000-plus emails and claimed disclosure “would not significantly inform the public about operations or activities of government.”
“At first, Treasury illegally delayed responding to CEI for several months,” Horner said “Now, it refused to issue a waiver of fees even though courts have been clear these fees were designed for non-profit watchdog groups. It claims this would place an outrageous cost burden on the agency. It would cost the agency the cost of one CD disc and the time it would take to download the emails to the disc.”