According to a letter from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated a handful of laws when they used social media as a means of swaying legislative opinion.
The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act prohibited the EPA’s appropriations from unauthorized publicity or propaganda purposes and grassroots lobbying, the letter said.
“We use social media tools just like all organizations to stay connected and inform people across the country about our activities,” Liz Purchia, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement. “At no point did the E.P.A. encourage the public to contact Congress or any state legislature.”
GAO claims the EPA broke the law with their Thunderclap campaign, a new social media tool that targets large amounts of users at once. Their videos about “supporting the EPA” violated the propaganda clause in the law because they had the appearance that a third-party was responsible for the messaging, not the agency.
“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,” said Senator Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said in a statement. “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.”
The GAO’s decision came after Inhofe requested a review of the EPA’s social media programs to promote the controversial Waters of the U.S. bill in April.