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Letter to Administratior McCarthy - Demand for Answers from EPA on Taxpayer Money Spent on Lobbying Efforts

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We write to you today to express our extreme concern with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 funded whatsupstream.com website and campaign, which recently has come to our attention. While we appreciate EPA's recent admission that wrongdoing occurred and that the campaign should never have been federally funded, we are still confused why EPA would have approved an award clearly violating a number of federal laws pertaining to funding propaganda, advocacy, and lobbying efforts. We find this revelation particularly disturbing, as it follows closely to both the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) questioning of Region 10's award monitoring and a December 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found EPA had committed similar violations on social media advocacy campaigns supporting EPA's Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation (also known as the "Clean Water Rule").

As you are no doubt aware, federal law clearly directs that, "No part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by the Congress." Further restrictions clearly prohibit federal funds being used for many of the advocacy and publicity materials used by the whatsupstream.com campaign, including publications, radio, and electronic communications. Despite this stark prohibition, the website whatsupstream.com has a button at the top of its site directing visitors to, "Take Action! We've made it simple." This button loads auto-generated text that will be sent to the visitor's respective Washington State legislators, urging the legislators to support, "stronger laws protecting the health of our water resources in Washington," by encouraging, "100-foot natural buffers between agriculture lands and streams." Additionally this site asserts that, "state government must hold the agricultural industry to the same level of responsibility as other industries...." To be clear, whatsupstream.com has a disclaimer at the bottom of its website stating, "This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency." Based on our review of EPA Puget Sound Financial and Ecosystem Accounting Tracking System (FEATS) project reports, it appears that this campaign has been wholly funded by the EPA with no matching funds provided by any private or state and local government entities.

Currently, the Washington State Department of Ecology is in the process of renewing the requirements for its National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System (NPDES) permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The Washington State legislature has also considered other water quality and agricultural related legislation during this same time period. These state regulatory and legislative initiatives were pending and under consideration during the same time of the lobbying efforts funded by EPA.

What is more disturbing is that a July 14, 2014 report by the EPA's OIG found that Region 10 EPA project officers, "emphasized overall progress rather than compliance with specific subaward requirements. This emphasis on overall progress increased the risk that project officers would not detect issues needing corrective action that might impact the project meeting its goals." The report also found that of a sample of ten different EPA subawards, only three had protocols in place to ensure 501(c)(4) subaward recipients did not engage in lobbying activities. Despite these warning signs, an October 30, 2015 EPA Region 10 FEATS report pertaining to the whatsupstream.com project concluded that, "As a result of extensive review and engagement by EPA, we have been revising the website, and have to [sic] restarted media outreach". This conclusion would seem to suggest that, even in spite of OIG's report, EPA reviewed, engaged, and approved of the current whatsupstream.com website that is in blatant violation of federal law.

As mentioned, on December 14, 2015, GAO issued an opinion finding that EPA violated propaganda and anti-lobbying laws by using certain social media platforms in association with the WOTUS regulation. By obligating and expending appropriated funds in violation of specific prohibitions contained in appropriations acts for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, GAO found EPA also violated the Antideficiency Act. The whatsupstream.com campaign appears to be part of an alarming trend where EPA engages in funding advocacy efforts against the very entities it is seeking to regulate. EPA cannot systematically choose when it wishes to follow the law and when it does not. Congress has made it explicitly clear that EPA's funding may not be used, "for publicity or propaganda purposes designed to support or defeat any proposed or pending regulation, administrative action, or order issued by the executive branch of any State or local government."

We are aware that Senators Inhofe and Roberts recently sent a letter to the EPA OIG requesting an official audit and investigation into the whatsupstream.com campaign and related activities, and the House Committee on Agriculture is conducting a related oversight investigation of EPA grant management. We fully support these requests, and strongly advise EPA's full and swift cooperation with all investigations and imminent oversight inquiries into this matter.

Sincerely,

Dan Newhouse Brad Ashford

Member of Congress Member of Congress

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA)

Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE)

Rep. Ralph Abraham, M.D. (R-LA)

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX)

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY)

Rep. Dan Benishek, M.D. (R-MI)

Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI)

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA)

Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL)

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA)

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL)

Rep. Earl L. "Buddy' Carter (R-GA)

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX)

Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (R-TN)

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC)

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN)

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX)

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN)

Rep. John C. Fleming, M.D. (R-LA)

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX)

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ)

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH)

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY)

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

Rep. Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (R-AZ)

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA)

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA)

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI)

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY)

Rep. Crescent Hardy (R-NV)

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)

Rep. French Hill (R-AR)

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NY)

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX)

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)

Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS)

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA)

Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-ID)

Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL)

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

Rep. Robert E. Latta (R-OH)

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)

Rep. Billy Long (R-MO)

Rep. Mia Love (R-UT)

Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK)

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)

Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E. (R-WV)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ)

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL)

Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI)

Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI)

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA)

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)

Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL)

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)

Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN)

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC)

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX)

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH)

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN)

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY)

Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-AL)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN)

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL)

Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA)

Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC)

Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ)

Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID)

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE)

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)

Rep. Glenn "GT' Thompson (R-PA)

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)

Rep. Dave Trott (R-MI)

Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-OH)

Rep. David G. Valadao (R-CA)

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC)

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN)

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA)

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY)

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)

Rep. Ted S. Yoho, DVM (R-FL)

Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Rep. David Young (R-IA)

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT)


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