EPA Accused of Illegally Funding Lobbying

More than 140 members of Congress are asking EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy why the agency’s regional Northwest office used federal dollars to fund a website and campaign calling for stricter regulation of agricultural activities that pollute salmon streams.

The website, www.whatsupstream.com, had a button directing visitors to “Take Action! We’ve Made It Simple,” which loaded a message to Washington state legislators, urging them to support “stronger laws protecting the health of our water resources in Washington,” according to the April 20 letter to McCarthy.  That link with the text has been removed.

The campaign was seeking support for 100-foot natural buffers between agriculture streams and lands, said 145 lawmakers who signed the letter.  

resized salmon

(Photographer: Luis Sergio/Bloomberg News)

Reporter Paul Shukovsky covered the story for Bloomberg BNA in EPA Accused of Illegally Funding Lobbying.  

He reported that the letter—signed largely by Republicans members of Congress—notes that Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) have asked the EPA Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit and investigation into the website and that the House Agriculture Committee is conducting a related oversight investigation of EPA grant management.

This is the latest episode for the EPA in a series of congressional allegations claiming the agency violated federal anti-lobbying laws and accusing the agency of illegally using taxpayer dollars to influence public opinion.    

The Government Accountability Office found in December 2015 that the agency had violated bans against propaganda and grassroots lobbying provisions contained in appropriations laws for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 by promoting the Clean Water Rule through social media.

Bloomberg BNA reporter Amena H. Saiyid dug into the issue in March in EPA Straddles Line Between Education, Advocacy.