When he signed on with Google's privacy-challenged social networking service last month, White House Internet policy director Andrew McLaughlin unwittingly exposed to the world a list of the people he emailed the most from his Gmail account.
Google Buzz eventually adjusted its privacy settings. But McLaughlin's list was already out of the bag.
Now Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants to know if McLaughlin was using his Gmail account for White House business -- which would be a violation of the Presidential Records Act, the law that requires the conservation of official White House documents. Correspondence of a personal, non-business nature -- or that predated his arrival at the White House -- wouldn't be an issue.
Issa sent McLaughlin a letter today with some related questions.
McLaughlin, ironically, came to the White House from Google, where he was its director of global policy.
"It appears, by your own admission, that the people you e-mail most from your Gmail account include several senior colleagues within the Obama Administration, including Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Director of Citizen Participation, and former Google coworker, Katie Jacobs Stanton," Issa writes in his letter.
"Additionally, your list of followers suggests that you remain actively engaged with more than two dozen individuals currently employed by Google, Inc, including a number of senior lobbyists and lawyers."
McLaughlin's overly public Buzz profile was first disclosed by conservative rabblerouser Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com Web site last week.
California-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog filed a Freedom of Information Act request last week seeking copies of McLaughlin's emails to Google employees, expressing concern about his "cozy relationship" with his former colleagues.
Neither McLaughlin nor the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he is deputy chief technology officer, had any immediate comment on Issa's letter.
By contrast to this administration, which has made strict adherence to transparency rules a priority, the Bush White House made an absolute mockery of the Presidential Records Act, with senior officials frequently using Republican National Committee email accounts for official business (Karl Rove alone sent more than 140,000 emails through his RNC account), and casually deleting countless White House emails that were supposed to be archived for posterity.