Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Energy Secretary Chu yesterday alleging that new information in the probe of the administration’s green energy loan program reveals that Energy Department employees “deceptively and willfully” withheld documents relating to the probe. Specifically, it says they used non-government email accounts to keep them out of sight.

Recently-obtained documents show DOE officials frequently used Yahoo! and Gmail to communicate about the loan guarantee program. This use of non-government e-mail accounts for official business may have violated the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Federal Records Act (FRA).  The documents also show that testimony given to the Committee by current and former DOE officials, including you, was inaccurate, and may have been intentionally false.

The letter was sent by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., along with Subcommittee Chairmen Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. It cites testimony from former DOE loan program officer Jonathan Silver telling the committee in July “no, unequivocally not” when asked if private email accounts were used to hide or hold back information. The letter then cites an email obtained via congressional subpoena sent by Silver in August, 2011, telling a DOE colleague: “Don’t ever send an email on DOE email with a private email address. That makes them subpoenable.” The letter also cites emails showing Silver regularly communicated with at least 13 other officials on private accounts regarding the loan program. The letter also alleges he used non-governmental accounts to communicate with the White House. It further suggests Chu was “complicit in an organized effort to deceive Congress” regarding these communications.

DOE Spokesman Damien LaVera said via email:

“In the rare cases where the Department has found that some officials may have used their personal email accounts to discuss official business, the Department has treated those emails as official records and voluntarily provided them when requested by congressional investigators. For example, just last week, we voluntarily provided these emails to the Committee.  Despite those in Congress who continue to cherry-pick individual emails to misrepresent the facts, nothing in these emails or in any of the 950,000 pages of documents we have voluntarily provided to Congress demonstrates anything except what we have consistently said from day one: decisions on loan applications were made on the merits after careful review by career officials and technical experts in the loan program.”