Monday, March 9, 2015

Political Scandal of the Week: Clinton's Emails by Caleb Wright

Hillary Clinton is under fire from the right yet again, this time for something much more easily attributable to her. Government officials, by tradition and by law, use governmental emails to conduct government businesses. Clinton, as Secretary of State, did not, opting to use a personal email address instead. This violated the Federal Records Act; as a report from The New York Times, who originally broke the story, said:
Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them … Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records. 
These requirements exist not only for cybersecurity purposes (personal emails are more easily hacked or phished), but also for accountability purposes. Hillary Clinton already has image problems with accountability; her aides failing to set up the proper email account, or proper reporting mechanisms for her personal account, and her failing to direct her aides to do so, does not reflect well on her. Her lack of response isn’t helping her, either. As Senator Feinstein told NBC,
I think that she needs to step up and come out and state exactly what the situation is. From this point on, the silence is going to hurt her.
This is honestly a rather big deal when it comes to government transparency; were this a criminal issue instead of a political one, someone could get fired, fined, or locked away. But, most Americans don’t care that much about something that seems as insignificant as email tracking.
Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to have any real effect in 2016. We’re still more than 18 months out from the election. Scandals that happen this early inevitably don’t have weight in the voters minds. If this scandal had come out in October 2016, it’d be a different story. But, the lack of real voter impact and lack of proximity to the election make it almost irrelevant for Clinton’s prospects.

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