Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) chief counsel issued an opinion finding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated various federal laws in its online campaign to defend its controversial Waters of the United States rule that would significantly expand the regulatory powers of the government.
After the EPA used numerous unorthodox practices to defend its rule, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee asked the GAO to review the legality of such practices earlier this year.
Summarizing federal statutes on the matter, the New York Times noted, “Federal agencies are allowed to promote their own policies, but are not allowed to engage in propaganda, defined as covert activity intended to influence the American public. They are also not allowed to use federal resources to conduct so-called grassroots lobbying – urging the American public to contact Congress to take certain kind of action pending legislation.”
Yet the GAO found that is exactly what the EPA did by employing social media platforms to defend its rulemaking and by urging citizens to contact their representatives and encourage Congress not to block the implementation of the rule.
The GAO has instructed EPA to determine how much money was spent on these illegal activities and report the violations to President Obama and Congress.
With Uncle Sam swimming in red ink, it is unacceptable for executive agencies to engage in taxpayer-funded propaganda campaigns. National Taxpayers Union would like to thank Chairman James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) and James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) for bringing these illegal and egregious examples of waste and abuse to the attention of the GAO. American taxpayers deserve better.