For Immediate Release: Thursday, August 20, 2020
Contact: Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
EPA Should Stop Spewing Tax-Paid Propaganda
Stream of Partisan Social Media Puffery Violates Appropriations Ban
Washington, DC — Much of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s social media messaging is illegal political self-promotion, charges Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group wants Congress to enforce the ban against federal funding for “propaganda purposes” and obtain reimbursement for the costs of EPA’s partisan tweets and other improper social media campaigning.
Current law forbids the use of “any appropriation…for publicity or propaganda purposes.” This ban covers communications that constitute self-aggrandizement or are purely partisan.
PEER is seeking a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of recent tweets by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that are financed with taxpayer dollars and appear to be purely self-promotional and/or are largely partisan, for example –
- “Under President Trump’s leadership, we continue to clean up the air, clean up our water & clean up our land” and “EPA is operating in the best interest of all Americans, including those who are working to keep our infrastructure running…”
- “Under @RealDonaldTrump’s leadership our economy is booming, air & water quality continually improving, and we are bringing real opportunities to America’s forgotten communities”; and
- Many tweets that have nothing to do with EPA, such as “President Trump @POTUS is providing the leadership necessary to secure our southern border” or “The President continues to show strong leadership during this time of a National Emergency.”
“EPA’s recent social media takes self-congratulation to new depths,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney. “These smarmy messages provide the public with no useful information, unless you count disinformation.”
Official federal social media is a fairly new phenomena but is now widespread. Under Obama, Republicans filed a complaint about an EPA social media campaign promoting adoption of his Clean Water Rule (since rescinded under Trump). GAO upheld the substance of that messaging finding that it was permitted because it had a connection to official activities.
“The Obama-era clean water social media campaign looks like milquetoast compared to the raw political red meat being served up by today’s EPA,” added Whitehouse, arguing that the nature of federal social media has radically changed. “EPA’s Twitter feed now reads like it comes straight from the Trump reelection campaign.”
Communications found by GAO to be propaganda or partisan are treated as a violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, carrying a civil fine of between $10,000 and $100,000 for “for each such expenditure.”
Read the PEER Congressional letter
Revisit 2015 Obama EPA social media review
Look at the latest GAO decision on EPA social media