The disclosure became a fresh political problem for the White House, as Democrats stepped up their inquiry into whether Karl Rove and other top aides to President Bush used the e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee to circumvent record-keeping requirements.
It also exposed the dual electronic lives led by Mr. Rove and 21 other White House officials who maintain separate e-mail accounts for government business and work on political campaigns — and raised serious questions, in the eyes of Democrats, about whether political accounts were used to conduct official work without leaving a paper trail.
The clash also seemed to push the White House and Democrats closer to a serious confrontation over executive privilege, with the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, asserting that the administration has control over countless other e-mail messages that the Republican National Committee has archived. Democrats are insisting that they are entitled to get the e-mail messages directly from the national committee.
Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of a House committee looking into the use of political e-mail accounts, wrote a letter to the attorney general on Thursday saying he had “particular concerns about Karl Rove” after a briefing his aides received from Rob Kelner, a lawyer for the Republican National Committee.
Mr. Rove uses several e-mail accounts, including one with the Republican National Committee, one with the White House and a private domain account that is registered to the political consulting company he once owned. Mr. Waxman said Mr. Kelner reported that in 2005, the national committee adopted a new policy, specifically aimed at Mr. Rove, which “removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the R.N.C. server.”