Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe Applauds GAO Decision on EPA's Illegal Use of Social Media in WOTUS PushMon, 14 Dec 2015 16:06:42 CST
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today released a statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published its legal decision that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated prohibitions on the use of taxpayer dollars for covert propaganda and unauthorized publicity as well as for indirect or grassroots lobbying against legislation concerning EPA's controversial Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule:
"GAO's finding confirms what I have long suspected, that EPA will go to extreme lengths and even violate the law to promote its activist environmental agenda. Courts have already raised questions about the legality of the Waters of the U.S. rule and have temporarily halted it from going into effect. EPA officials act as if the law does not apply to them, but this GAO opinion should serve as another reminder that EPA officials are not above the law. GAO's determination that EPA violated the ban on covert propaganda and grassroots lobbying is especially troubling. EPA's illegal attempts to manufacture public support for its Waters of the United States rule and sway Congressional opinion regarding legislation to address that rule have undermined the integrity of the rulemaking process and demonstrated how baseless this unprecedented expansion of EPA regulatory authority really is. This opinion from GAO also bolsters our oversight of EPA in other areas, as we continue to investigate and raise questions about the process EPA used to develop the Clean Power Plan and its coordination with environmental activists groups."
In April, Inhofe first requested GAO review EPA's use of social media, including the Thunderclap platform, to promote the WOTUS rule to determine whether it violated Congressional prohibitions against grassroots lobbying (including restrictions contained in annual appropriations laws). During the course of its review, GAO expanded its inquiry at Inhofe's request to also examine whether EPA's activities constituted prohibited covert propaganda or publicity.
On May 22, Inhofe joined Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and M. Michael Rounds (R-S.D.) in sending a letter to EPA requesting documents and information about EPA's use of social media. On Aug. 5, Inhofe and Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) sent a separate document request letter to EPA seeking additional information about the publicity campaign for the WOTUS rule.
The GAO legal decision found EPA's publicity campaign on Thunderclap constituted covert propaganda, and an EPA website linking to Natural Resource Defense Council and Surfrider Foundation websites encouraging the public to contact Congress violated restrictions on indirect or grassroots lobbying. In identifying these violations, GAO also determined EPA violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits U.S. government employees from spending government funds unless authorized by law.
Highlights of the GAO legal decision include:
Page 12: "As explained below, we conclude that EPA's use of Thunderclap constitutes covert propaganda, in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition."
Page 24: "We conclude that EPA violated the anti-lobbying provisions contained in appropriations acts for FY 2015 when it obligated and expended funds in connection with establishing the hyperlinks to the webpages of environmental action groups."
Page 26: "Because EPA obligated and expended appropriated funds in violation of specific prohibitions, we also conclude that EPA violated the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A), as the agency's appropriations were not available for these prohibited purposes."
To view the full GAO legal decision, click here.
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